A government report has concluded that deaths caused by flooding in China’s Henan province in July 2021 not only could have been avoided, but the true number was originally covered up by officials, as reported by Sixth Tone.
The floods in Henan killed 398 people, 380 of which were in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital. As the flood waters began to rise throughout the city, and the perilousness of the situation became clear, officials underreported the number of deaths.
One week after the event, only 97 of the total 380 losses in the city had been reported. The report damningly claims that the Zhengzhou government “deliberately” delayed reporting missing persons and made communication difficult, going as far as “concealing” information.
On July 20, over 600 millimeters of rainfall hit Zhengzhou, almost the same amount the city receives in one year. The report stated that multiple failures throughout different levels of local government were the primary reasons for the high death toll.
The first in a series of errors leading to the deaths was the city’s flood defense system. At the time the city was trying to reach a standard where it could absorb close to 200 millimeters of rainfall a day by 2030. Senior city officials incorrectly assumed they would never see such a downpour.
The next fatal error was that some city officials ignored early warning signs issued by Zhengzhou’s meteorological bureau. Therefore, vital emergency response measures were not in place and the public were unaware of the imminent danger.
On the day of the floods many people went to work, completely oblivious as to what lay ahead.
Some of the most striking images to come from the floods in the Central Chinal province was water surging into metro stations and metro cars. Many commuters were stuck inside the underground trains as the water began to rise. People in cars were making phone calls to loved ones, as oxygen levels began to fall.
Fourteen people died on Zhengzhou’s line 5 as 400 commuters watched on helplessly. It is stated that rescue workers and Zhengzhou Metro Group were slow to respond and their eventual “chaotic” response caused “serious delays.” The driver of the train tried to reverse down the tunnel, a move which only exacerbated the situation.
Several arrests were made following the floods, one being a Zhengzhou Metro Group designer. The rail yard was built 30 meters away from the location approved by authorities, which lessened its ability to resist floods.
Amongst the deaths throughout the city were two middle school students, who drowned in Jingguang North Road tunnel. It is claimed in the report that the city did not shut the tunnel down quick enough.
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[Cover image via Weibo]