At least 12 people are dead in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou after massive floods triggered by several days of heavy rains.
The rains washed out streets throughout the capital of Henan province, forcing stranded motorists to wade through waist-deep waters that submerged cars and even sent them floating away.
The floods also washed out Zhengzhou’s subway system, with riders posting videos on social media awaiting rescue in waist-high muddy waters. A passenger named Xiaopei posted on Weibo that “the water in the carriage has reached (their) chest.”
Dozens of reservoirs and dams have reached critical levels, with local authorities warning that the Yihetan dam in the nearby city of Luoyang had sustained a 20-meter breach and was on the verge of imminent collapse.
Authorities have evacuated 100,000 residents to safe zones.
Henan province, home to about 94 million people, has experienced severe rains through the past week. Forecasters say Zhengzhou received as much rainfall in three days as it normally gets in a year.
A representative of the city of Xu Liyi, a member of the Standing Committee of Henan Provincial Party Committee, and secretary of the Zhengzhou Municipal Party Committee said the high levels of rainfall were unusual.
Extreme weather events have surged this summer in China, with recent flooding in Sichuan province killing hundreds of citizens and forcing thousands to evacuate the area. Officials of Greenpeace International, an environmental group, warn that China’s rapid urbanization will increase the frequency of climate disasters.
Speaking to the Chinese media, Liu Junyan of Greenpeace said, “because of the highly concentrated population, infrastructure and economic activity, the exposure and vulnerability of climate hazards are higher in urban areas.”
This report contains information from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.