China blasts dam as death toll from floods rises to 25
Flood prevention efforts difficult: Xi; 7 go missing; 100,000 evacuated; over 5,700 troops join search and rescue; blackout shuts down ventilators at a hospital
China’s military has blasted a dam to release floodwaters threatening one of its most heavily populated provinces, as the death toll in widespread flooding rose to at least 25.
About 100,000 people have been evacuated in Zhengzhou, an industrial and transport hub, where rail and road links were disrupted. Dams and reservoirs have swelled to warning levels and thousands of troops are taking part in the rescue effort in the province.
“Flood prevention efforts have become very difficult,” President Xi Jinping said in a statement broadcast by state television.
“The water reached my chest,” a survivor wrote on social media. “I was really scared, but the most terrifying thing was not the water, but the diminishing air supply in the carriage.”
The rain halted bus services in the city of 12 million people about 650km southwest of Beijing, said a resident surnamed Guo, who had to spend the night at his office.
“That’s why many people took the subway, and the tragedy happened,” Guo said.
Media said the dead included four residents of the city of Gongyi, located on the banks of the Yellow River like Zhengzhou, following the widespread collapse of homes and structures because of the rains.
More rain is forecast across Henan for the next three days, and the People’s Liberation Army has sent more than 5,700 soldiers and personnel to help with search and rescue.
By Wednesday, media said food and water supplies had run out for hundreds of passengers stranded on a train that had stopped just beyond the city limits of Zhengzhou two days earlier.
From Saturday to Tuesday, 617.1mm of rain fell in Zhengzhou, almost the equivalent of its annual average of 640.8mm.
The three days of rain matched a level seen only “once in a thousand years,” the Zhengzhou weather bureau said.
The dam operation was carried out late Tuesday night in the city of Luoyang, just as severe flooding overwhelmed Henan, the provincial capital of Zhengzhou, trapping residents in the subway system and stranding them at schools, apartments and offices.
Seven people were reported missing, provincial officials said at a news conference.
A video posted on Twiter by news site The Paper showed subway passengers standing in chest-high muddy brown water as torrents raged in the tunnel outside.
Transport and work have been disrupted throughout the province, with rain turning streets into rapidly flowing rivers, washing away cars and rising into people’s homes.
At least 10 trains carrying about 10,000 passengers were halted, including three for more than 40 hours, according to Caixin, a business news magazine.
Sections of 26 highways were closed due to the rain, the Transport Ministry said on its social media account.
A blackout shut down ventilators at the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University, forcing staff to use hand-pumped airbags to help patients breathe, according to the city’s Communist Party commitee.
It said more than 600 patients were being transferred to other hospitals.
A woman aboard a subway in a flooded tunnel told her husband the water almost reached her neck and passengers had trouble breathing, the Henan Business Daily newspaper reported.
It said staff at a subway station told her husband all passengers had been evacuated but acknowledged that wasn’t so ater he started a video chat with his wife on his cellphone showing she still was aboard.
The precise times and locations of the deaths and disappearances weren’t immediately clear.
State media on Wednesday showed waters at waist height, with rain still coming down.
To the north of Zhengzhou, the famed Shaolin Temple, known for its Buddhist monks’ mastery of martial arts, was also badly hit.
Taiwan’s Foxconn, which operates a plant in Zhengzhou assembling iphones for Apple, said there was no direct impact on the facility.
China’s largest automaker, SAIC Motor, warned of short-term impact on logistics at its plant there, while Japan’s Nissan said production at its factory had been suspended.