Jul 21, 2021
Devastating floods and landslides caused by days of heavy rainfall in China's central province of Henan have killed at least 25 people and displaced roughly 200,000 as of Wednesday--one of the most recent examples of extreme weather disasters linked to the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis wreaking havoc around the globe.
Less than a week after severe flooding in Germany and Belgium killed nearly 200 people, left hundreds missing, and stunned climate scientists, parts of China have been hit with an even more intense downpour. Described as China's "heaviest rain in 1,000 years," the storm began over the weekend and intensified on Tuesday.
According to Sky News, "More than 20 centimeters of rain fell on the city of Zhengzhou... in a single hour on Tuesday. In the recent European floods, the worst-hit areas of Germany saw 18.2 centimeters over three days."
\u201cFloods in China's Henan province and it's capital Zhengzhou seem worse even than what happened in Germany last week. Today Zhengzhou had 200mm of rain in one hour. In Germany, they had 154mm in 24 hours. See @javihagen for more. \u201d— Ian Fraser (@Ian Fraser) 1626799959
Zhengzhou, a city of more than 10 million and the capital of Henan, received "the equivalent of eight months of rain in a single day," according to the United Nations, making it "the highest daily rainfall since weather records began."
\u201cDramatic climate impacts continue around the world. Zhengzhou in China has seen the highest daily rainfall since weather records began, receiving the equivalent of 8 months of rain in a single day. #COP26\u201d— UN Climate Change (@UN Climate Change) 1626856837
Over the course of just three days, Zhengzhou, which is located adjacent to the Yellow River, one of China's main waterways, saw a year's worth of precipitation. As a result, the city's streets and subways were inundated, prompting an ongoing rescue effort.
Harrowing images and videos shared on Tuesday via social media depict passengers of Zhengzhou's underground rail system trapped on trains full of rising water.
Al Jazeera reported Wednesday that "at least twelve people were killed in the Metro, five more were injured, and more than 500 were rescued."
"The water reached my chest," one survivor wrote on social media, according to Al Jazeera. "I was really scared, but the most terrifying thing was not the water, but the increasingly diminishing air supply in the carriage."
Rainstorms also left students stranded at schools and caused power outages, including at a hospital in Zhengzhou.
The torrential downpour, which meteorologists reportedly expect to end by Thursday, has pummeled more than a dozen cities in Henan. Sky News noted that "from Saturday to Tuesday, 3,535 weather stations in Henan saw rainfall exceeding 5 centimeters, of which 1,614 had levels above 10 centimeters and 151 above 25 centimeters."
Citing the state-run Xinhua news agency, Al Jazeera reported that heavy rains triggered multiple landslides. Building collapses in Gongyi city killed at least four people.
According to Sky News:
The Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng had to close, and an aluminum plant in the city exploded, sending water surging into the facility.
The Longmen Grottoes--a UNESCO World Heritage site featuring buddhas etched into limestone dating back as far as 500 A.D.--are also threatened by the flooding.
More than 30 reservoirs in Henan have exceeded their warning levels...
"Some reservoirs had their dams burst... causing serious injury, loss of life, and property damage," Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday. "The flood control situation is extremely severe."
Late Tuesday night, China's military blasted the Yihetan dam to divert floodwaters that endangered the city of Luoyang, home to about seven million people.
The threat of flooding, Al Jazeera noted, "has worsened across the decades, due in part to widespread construction of dams and levees." The threat of flooding has also been exacerbated by the ongoing burning of coal, oil, and gas throughout the world, which increases the emission of planet-warming greenhouse gases--making extreme weather more likely and intense.
Last week, Greenpeace East Asia released a study warning that the risk of heatwaves and flooding in China is "now highest in densely-populated city centers but is growing fast in communities that are becoming more urban on the outskirts of the country's large cities," Al Jazeera reported.
Just days before it was hit with catastrophic floods, Henan endured a major heatwave, Bloomberg noted Wednesday.
"The deadly flood shows the unpredictable impacts from climate change are appearing more and more often," Zhang Jianyu, chief representative at the Environmental Defense Fund's Beijing office, told the news outlet. "It's a message to us that it's time to strengthen efforts to tackle [the] climate change crisis."
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