At least 33 people have been confirmed dead, with eight missing, in record-breaking floods in central China that have forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes, state media reported.
The provincial weather bureau on Thursday raised the storm alert to red for four cities in the north of Henan – Xinxiang, Anyang, Hebi and Jiaozuo – the highest tier of a four-step colour-coded weather warning system, as rain spread northwards from Zhengzhou, the hard-hit provincial capital, about 650km (400 miles) southwest of Beijing.
Twelve of the deceased were the victims of the submerged Zhengzhou’s underground metro system, while others drowned when an underpass was inundated. Eight people are listed as missing across the province.
More than 73,000 people were being evacuated from Anyang, on Henan’s border with Hebei province, after the city was swamped by more than 600mm (24 inches) of rainfall since Monday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Xinxiang, a small city north of Zhengzhou, recorded 812mm (32 inches) of rain between Tuesday and Thursday, shattering local meteorological records, Xinhua reported. Seven medium-sized reservoirs in the city had overflowed, affecting scores of nearby villages and towns.
As of late Wednesday, more than 470,000 people and more than 55,000 hectares (135,910 acres) of crops have been affected by the Xinxiang downpours, Xinhua said, adding the local government had deployed a search and rescue team with more than 76,000 personnel.
The fatal flooding of the Zhengzhou subway prompted an order for local authorities to immediately improve urban transit flood controls and emergency responses. In neighbouring Hebei, two people were killed when a tornado struck the city of Baoding.