• Monday, Sep 27, 2021
  • Last Update : 12:58 am

Death toll from Henan floods rises to 71 as China braces for more rain

  • Published at 10:11 pm July 27th, 2021
China flood
Men stand on a vehicle on a flooded road following heavy rainfall in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China, July 23, 2021 Reuters

Images of passengers inundated by shoulder-height water went viral on Chinese social media

The death toll from floods in central China's Henan province rose to 71 on Tuesday as a tribute at a subway where 14 people died was sealed off in a sign of sensitivity to public criticism of the government's handling of the disaster.

Torrential downpours dumped a year's rain in just three days last week on the hardest-hit city of Zhengzhou, flooding subway cars and trapping more than 500 commuters during rush hour on last Tuesday.

Images of passengers inundated by shoulder-height water went viral on Chinese social media. 

The city government announced on Tuesday the names of those who perished in the subway, a rare attempt at transparency after people started leaving flowers at the entrance to the station. 

"Extreme rains caused severe water logging in parts of subway line 5, and the retaining walls that protected the subway lines crumbled," the government statement said.

Subway guards eventually blocked access to the floral tribute, but a video published by state-run West China Metropolis Daily on Tuesday showed a group of people pushing aside the yellow barricades on Monday night chanting "let the spirits of those who died come back home!"

One of the victims, identified in the official list by his last name Sha, was days short of his 34th birthday.

"Who would have thought that you were only one stop away from home, but you will never come back again," his wife wrote on China's twitter-like Weibo.

Sha's wife, who declined to give her name, told Jimu news that she was suing the metro operator for negligence.

Foreign journalists covering the floods have been harassed online and, on the ground, as sensitivity towards any negative portrayal of China mounts. 

Reporters from AFP were forced to delete footage by hostile residents and surrounded by dozens of men while reporting on a submerged traffic tunnel in Zhengzhou.

Heavy downpours that began July 17 have affected almost 13 million people, damaged nearly 9,000 homes and caused economic losses in Henan estimated at $2 billion.

Forecasters said on Tuesday more heavy rain is expected as the remnants of Typhoon In Fa pass through the area.

Cities still reeling from the last week's floods, including Xinxiang, Hebi and Anyang, are likely to see the heaviest downpours from July 27 to 29, Henan's meteorological observatory said in a statement.

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