Nearly 400,000 people in China were driven from their homes in flood-affected areas on Thursday (22), and the death toll rose to 33 as a result of heavy rains that lasted nearly a week.
Among the confirmed deaths, 12 people died when the subway in the capital of Henan Province, Zhengzhou, was flooded. Survivors of the tragedy experienced moments of panic, and reports include water levels up to their necks as dozens of people were trapped in cars.
The case has also sparked outrage and accusations of unpreparedness against Chinese authorities. A post on Weibo, a Chinese social network similar to Twitter, with more than 160 million views, asked, “Why was the water level on the street almost at waist height, but the subway still allowed travelers to ‘enter ?
New towns have been affected by further flooding as the rains spread north. According to the official Xinhua news agency, the direct economic loss already exceeds 1.11 billion yuan (978.8 million reais).
The meteorological agency of Henan Province, until then the hardest hit by extreme weather events, raised storm warnings in four cities to a maximum level: Xinxiang, Anyang, Hebi and Jiaozuo.
According to a South China Morning Post report, meteorologists predicted the rains in recent days, but issued warnings at the wrong time and in the wrong place. The Henan Weather Service said authorities were warned of the risk of extreme weather events a week ago, but the forecast was that the heavier rains would hit Jiaozuo and not Zhengzhou, and that was due to happen on Thursday, not Tuesday. .
When the red alert was issued in the provincial capital, most residents had already left their homes for their daily activities. The bus service being stopped, a larger contingent than expected opted for the metro, which caused the tragedy in the cars.
Also according to the SCMP, China faces a shortage of weather forecasting capacity in the poorest cities and rural areas. Cities like Beijing and Shanghai are better equipped, but Zhengzhou, for example, is on the list of weather “blind spots”.
The Beijing National Meteorological Center is one of nine recognized by the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations agency that monitors the climate on a global scale. “But despite the satellites and supercomputers used by the center, their rainfall estimates are more often wrong than correct,” says the SCMP, based on a study that finds that Chinese meteorological authorities have corrected their rainfall forecast to some 24-hour hours with 20% accuracy. .
According to the same survey, countries in Europe, the United States and Japan, with a longer history in meteorology and generally smaller territories to cover, the level of accuracy is around 30%.
In an editorial published Thursday, the Chinese Communist Party-controlled Global Times newspaper said it would be “absolutely impossible” to prevent flooding in Zhengzhou and warned of climate change.
“In the future, we will no longer be able to use vague phrases like ‘once every thousand years’ or ‘once every hundred years’ to guide the fight against disasters. We must be prepared to face and face a catastrophic climate more often. , says the text.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Wednesday called the flooding “extremely serious” and called on the authorities to organize. The regime released emergency aid worth 100 million yuan (80.3 million reais) to Henan province.
Even though the sky over Zhengzhou was significantly clearer on Thursday, the flood damage was still clearly visible in the streets of the city of 12 million people (similar to the population of São Paulo): piles of cars washed away by the flooding, whole streets submerged in waist-deep water and several buildings damaged by the flood.
First aid teams used boats and rafts to rescue stranded residents. At another location, a group of people were carried in the “clutches” of an excavator.
A group of volunteers from a construction company in Sichuan Province also used a boat to transport residents who had been trapped in a building in Zhengzhou. According to a volunteer, they organized themselves to rescue the elderly first, then women and children.
“The last time Sichuan had an earthquake. Now there is flooding. Today you help me, tomorrow I help you,” said the woman who identified herself only as Ma. She referred to the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that killed nearly 70,000 people in 2008.
Despite the risks, however, some residents refuse to leave their homes while there is food, rescuers reported to Reuters news agency. A man with the last name Xu said he was trapped with his wife and two children in the apartment for several days, with virtually no drinking water.
“I have lived here for four, five years and this has never happened. We had no water, no electricity, we could not take a shower, and the little water we had to wash ourselves. , we saved it for the flush, ”said Xu while waiting with his family for a boat rescue at the entrance to the condominium.
As the storm moves north, according to meteorologists, more than 73,000 people have been evacuated from Anyang. The city of about 5 million inhabitants (almost double the population of Belo Horizonte) has recorded, since the beginning of the week, more than 600 millimeters of rain, a figure close to the annual average of precipitation in the region. .
In Xinxiang, the index was even higher. The 812 millimeters of rain since Tuesday broke local weather records, according to Xinhua. Seven of the city’s reservoirs overflowed, affecting dozens of villages and other nearby towns.
The agency released a report showing that more than 470,000 people in Xinxiang and more than 55,000 hectares of plantations were directly affected by the rains. Authorities sent search and rescue teams of more than 76,000 people.
Besides the heat waves with record temperatures in the United States and Canada and the catastrophic floods recorded in countries like Germany, Holland and Belgium, the rains in China are directly linked to a global context of climate change.
According to experts, rising temperatures on a global scale generate a build-up of energy in the atmosphere which dissipates through extreme weather events, which tend to become increasingly powerful and frequent.