Kolkata, India: A manicured hand touches the train carriage window as a brown swirl of floodwater squeezes up against the tunnel outside — one of many scenes of desperation from an underground tragedy shared Wednesday across a stunning Chinese social media.
Heavy rainfall forced the subway system in Zhengzhou, capital of China’s Henan province, to shut down Tuesday, stranding passengers.
At least twelve died and five others were injured in the subway flood, according to city authorities, as water coursed below ground on Tuesday evening in Zhengzhou in central China’s Henan province.
Riders posted videos on social media as they awaited rescue in waist-high muddy waters. A passenger named Xiaopei posted on Weibo that “the water in the carriage has reached (their) chest.”
Horror shared on social media after flood in central China
Social media platform Weibo and local media outlets carried fragments of the horror — video posts seemingly made as a final testimony — of chest-high and rising water inside carriages as lights went out on the city’s ‘Line Five’ during the commuter rush hour.
Videos showed platforms submerged by a fast-flowing muddy deluge, while inside commuters – some bemused, others terrified – stood as the water rose ominously around them, knocking the power out and forcing parents to hold up their children.
One video showed a woman’s hand with painted nails, gently pushing at the carriage window, a stirring sign of incredulity at the surging water level outside – a moment of dread before the inevitable breach of the carriage doors.
“Water was leaking from the cracks in the door, more and more of it, all of us who could, stood on the subway seats,” another woman said on Weibo.
Around 300 people have been rescued so far after the central China floods, and an unknown number remain trapped.
Local media outlets report that train floodwaters were lowering.
Another user on Weibo recounted being forced back into a carriage after failed attempts to evacuate.
“In the half-hour that, followed the water level became higher and higher inside the train, from our ankles to our knees to our necks.”
“The power went out. Half an hour later it got hard to breathe.”
Survivors said parents lifted their children above the torrent as dread gripped the carriages.
Suddenly the glass was smashed by rescuers, who state media said also cut into the stricken carriages from above to pull the passengers out to safety.
A male survivor named Zhang told state broadcaster CCTV: “My shirt, my backpack — everything I could throw away, I threw away. The people around me clutched onto the railings as about a dozen of us were climbing (out of the tunnel).”
Henan province, home to about 94 million people, experienced severe rains through the past week.
On Tuesday, the region’s meteorological station issued the highest threat level, a red warning, as rains are expected to continue for the next 24 hours, Reuters reported.
A representative of the city of Xu Liyi, a member of the Standing Committee of Henan Provincial Party Committee, and Secretary of the Zhengzhou Municipal Party Committee said the high levels of rainfall were unusual.
Extreme weather events have surged this summer in China, with the recent flooding in Sichuan province killing hundreds of citizens and forcing thousands to evacuate the area.
Officials of Greenpeace International, an environmental group, warn that China’s rapid urbanization will increase the frequency of climate disasters.
Speaking to the Chinese media, Liu Junyan of Greenpeace said “because of the highly concentrated population, infrastructure, and economic activity, the exposure and vulnerability of climate hazards are higher in urban areas.”
This report contains information from AFP and Reuters.