Xi stresses prioritizing people’s safety
Soldiers, firefighters sent to flood-hit areas of Henan province to assist in relief effort
President Xi Jinping has urged allout efforts to carry out flood prevention and rescue work to protect people’s lives and property, requiring officials at various levels to work on the front line to speedily mobilize all available resources.
In an instruction released on Wednesday, Xi mentioned the heavy rains that hit some regions in the past few days, which have caused flooding in Zhengzhou, the Henan provincial capital, and other cities. The water level of some rivers in the area has risen above the alert level, some reservoirs are at risk of collapse, rail services have been suspended and flights canceled.
So far, the rainfall that has hit Henan since Friday has left at least 25 people dead and seven missing.
People affected by the rainfall should be resettled in a proper way and every effort should be made to reduce deaths and injuries as well as property losses to the greatest possible extent, said Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission.
While asking the People’s Liberation Army and armed police forces to help local governments in the rescue operation, Xi also urged relevant ministries under the State Council to strengthen coordination, intensify efforts in risk identification, reinforce the security of key infrastructure facilities and enhance their alert systems, and improve prediction of heavy rain, typhoons, floods and mudslides.
The State Council also called on Wednesday for the mobilization of rescuers and the sending of funds and materials to support disaster relief in Henan, according to a news release from an executive meeting of the State Council presided over by Premier Li Keqiang.
In addition to intensifying patrols on rivers and reservoirs to identify safety hazards, local governments should also ramp up early warning, step up precautionary measures to ensure people’s safety and minimize losses, the news release said.
About 5,700 soldiers, armed police officers and militia personnel had been mobilized to support the disaster relief work in Henan as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the Central Theater Command of the PLA.
About 1,800 firefighters have been sent from other regions by the Ministry of Emergency Management to disaster-stricken areas in the province.
Torrential rains since Friday in Henan have affected over 1.2 million residents in the province and forced the relocation of more than 160,000 people, according to the province’s Department of Emergency Management.
Direct economic losses caused by the downpours have exceeded 542 million yuan ($83.8 million), Xu Zhong, an official from the department, said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Among the dead, at least 12 were passengers trapped in the Zhengzhou Metro system’s Subway Line 5 on Tuesday.
Tao Yi, a 30-year-old woman who was traveling on Line 5, said it took her several hours to get out of one of the flooded stations.
She said subway workers told her that the water rose to people’s chests in some of the worst affected subway cars.
“I was still frightened when I arrived home at night,” she said. “But people are very warmhearted, and we offered help to each other.”
The National Meteorological Center said Zhengzhou received 201.9 millimeters of rain between 4 pm and 5 pm on Tuesday, breaking the record for hourly precipitation in the country’s land areas.
The torrential rains are forecast to continue wreaking havoc in the coming three days in the northern parts of Henan and southern areas of Hebei province. Downpours will also hit some areas in another five provincial regions, including Shanxi and Yunnan, according to the center.
The continuous rains in northern Henan will swell five major rivers and cause flooding of some medium-sized and small rivers in the area, the Ministry of Water Resources warned on Wednesday.
The ministry upgraded its emergency response for flooding to Grade 3, the third-highest in a four level system.