At Least 25 Dead as China Sees 'Once in a Thousand Years' Rains

    21 July 2021

    At least 25 people have died from heavy rains in China's central province of Henan. Twelve of them died in a flooded underground train in Henan's capital, Zhengzhou.

    Officials had to provide shelter for about 100,000 people in Zhengzhou. The floods stopped the city's rail and road transportation. Thousands of military troops have started a rescue effort in the area.

    City officials said rescuers pulled more than 500 people to safety from the flooded subway. Social media images showed people who were riding the subway walking through deep waters in the dark. One subway station looked like a brown lake.

    "The water reached my chest," one flood survivor wrote on social media. "I was really scared."

    Residents, holding umbrellas amid heavy rainfall, wade through floodwaters on a road in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China July 20, 2021.
    Residents, holding umbrellas amid heavy rainfall, wade through floodwaters on a road in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China July 20, 2021.

    A local person whose family name is Guo said he had to spend the night at his office. Guo added that the rain stopped bus services in Zhengzhou.

    "That's why many people took the subway, and the tragedy happened," Guo told Reuters.

    At a news conference on Wednesday, officials said at least 25 people have died and seven remained missing since last weekend.

    More rain is predicted across Henan for the next three days.

    From last Saturday to Tuesday, 617.1 millimeters of rain fell in Zhengzhou. That is close to its yearly average rainfall of 640.8 millimeters.

    The three days of rain equaled a level seen only "once in a thousand years," local weather broadcasters said.

    Scientists told the Reuters news agency that the rainfall in China was likely linked to worldwide climate change, just like recent heat waves in the United States and Canada and extreme flooding seen in Western Europe.

    Johnny Chan is a professor of atmospheric science at City University of Hong Kong. He said, "Such extreme weather events will likely become more frequent in the future."

    He added that local and national governments must develop ways "to adapt to such changes."

    'Flood prevention difficult'

    Henan is a major center of transport with a population of about 100 million. Many train services in the area have had to stop. On one train just outside the city limits of Zhengzhou, hundreds of people have been trapped for two days with little food or water. Major roads were severely flooded in many cities of the province. Flights have been delayed or canceled.

    In a statement broadcast by state television, Chinese President Xi Jinping said, "Flood prevention efforts have become very difficult."

    Schools, hospitals cut off

    Some schools and hospitals in Henan were trapped by floodwaters. People caught in the floods sought shelter in places like libraries, movie theaters and museums.

    "We've up to 200 people of all ages seeking temporary shelter," a worker at the Zhengzhou Science and Technology Museum said.

    "We've provided them with instant noodles and hot water. They spent the night in a huge meeting room," added the museum worker, whose family name is Wang.

    The First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou is the city's largest hospital. After it lost all power, officials tried to find transport for about 600 severely ill patients.

    I'm Jill Robbins.

    Ryan Woo and Stella Qiu wrote this story for Reuters. Jill Robbins adapted it for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.


    Words in This Story

    province – n. any one of the large parts that some countries are divided into

    subway – n. a system of underground trains in a city

    frequentadj. happening often

    chest – n. the front part of the body between the neck and the stomach

    scaredadj. afraid; nervous or frightened

    adaptv. to change your behavior so that it is easier to live in a particular place or situation

    library – n. a place where books, magazines, and other materials (such as videos and musical recordings) are available for people to use or borrow

    museum – n. a building in which interesting and valuable things (such as paintings and sculptures or scientific or historical objects) are collected and shown to the public

    instant – adj. (of food) able to be made very quickly: partially prepared by the manufacturer so that final preparation is quick and easy

    noodle – n. a thin strip of dough that is made from flour, water, and eggs and that is cooked in boiling liquid

    ill – adj. sick

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