China orders immediate review of subway flood controls as storms spread northwards

China orders immediate review of subway flood controls as storms spread northwards

Aerial view shows a flooded road section following heavy rainfall in Zhengzhou
An aerial view shows a flooded road section following heavy rainfall in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China on Jul 21, 2021. Picture taken with a drone. (Photo: China Daily via Reuters)

BEIJING: Tens of thousands of people were being evacuated from flood-hit regions of central China on Thursday (Jul 22) as officials raised the death toll from heavy rains that have deluged Henan province for almost a week to 33 people.

More cities were inundated and crops destroyed as the severe weather spread northwards, with the official Xinhua news agency reporting direct economic losses of 1.22 billion yuan ($189 million) so far.

The provincial weather bureau on Thursday raised the storm alert for four cities in the north of Henan - Xinxiang, Anyang, Hebi and Jiaozuo - to red, the highest tier of a four-step colour-coded weather warning system.

The fatalities included 12 people who were killed when the subway in the provincial capital of Zhengzhou, about 650km southwest of Beijing, was flooded earlier this week. Eight people are listed as missing across the province.

READ: City in China's Henan province picks through debris after record rains kill 33

The Ministry of Transport said local authorities must immediately re-examine and rectify all hidden risks on rail transit.

"They must take emergency measures such as suspending trains, evacuating passengers, and closing stations in atypical situations such as excessively intense storms," the ministry said.

People holding umbrellas amid heavy rainfall wade through floodwaters on a bridge in Hebi
People holding umbrellas amid heavy rainfall wade through floodwaters on a bridge in Hebi, Henan province, China on Jul 22, 2021. (Photo: Reuters/Aly Song)

Hundreds of people were pulled to safety earlier this week from the flooded subway in Zhengzhou. Media images showed commuters immersed in chest-deep waters in lightless cabins. One underground station was reduced to a large churning pool.

READ: Horror on 'Line 5' as subway floods in China's Henan province

About 617.1mm of rain fell in Zhengzhou from Saturday to Tuesday, almost the equivalent of the city's annual average of 640.8mm

Public scrutiny has also fallen on the timeliness of weather bulletins provided by local meteorological services.

The provincial weather bureau told state media it had issued a report warning of the coming torrential rains two days in advance.

READ: A dozen cities in China's Henan province flooded as river banks burst

Since Monday evening, meteorological departments from the provincial down to the county level have sent out 120 million text messages to mobile phone users warning them of the storms, the Henan weather bureau said.

More than 73,000 people were being evacuated from the city of Anyang, on Henan's border with Hebei province, after being swamped by more than 600mm of rainfall since Monday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Xinxiang, a small city north of Zhengzhou, recorded 812mm of rainfall between Tuesday and Thursday, shattering local meteorological records, Xinhua reported. Seven medium-sized reservoirs in the city had overflowed, affecting scores of nearby villages and towns.

As of late Wednesday, more than 470,000 people and over 55,000 hectares of crops have been affected by the Xinxiang downpours, Xinhua said, adding the local government had deployed a more than 76,000-strong search and rescue team.

On Wednesday evening, two people died after a tornado hit Baoding, a city in Hebei province about 140km southwest of Beijing.

Source: Reuters/lk

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