Severe floods have killed at least a dozen people in Zhengzhou, China’s central city home to the world’s largest iPhone assembly plant, as record rainfall has threatened to erupt in nearby dams.
Torrential rain has been described by local meteorological authorities as an event “once in a millennium” that surpassed all that has been recorded since 1951, subduing roads and blocking passengers in subway cars.
From Saturday evening to Tuesday, 671.1 mm of rain fell on Zhengzhou, more than the average annual volume of 604.8 mm. Tuesday afternoon, 201.9mm fell in a single hour.
Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, is an important industrial center. Its iPhone assembly plant is operated by Taiwan-based supplier Apple’s Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn. The company said there had been “no direct impact on our structure at this location to date,” adding that it was closely following the situation and had activated an emergency response plan for flood control.
The city’s subway system was shut down Tuesday night after part of a wall to keep water out of tunnels collapsed. Videos shared on social media show a subway car full of people standing in the water for the rest of their lives waiting to be rescued.
Twelve people were killed and five injured in the subway alone, according to a first count released by Chinese state media on Wednesday.
A series of dams on the outskirts of the city were in danger of bursting, forcing authorities to relieve the pressure by discharging water.
Zhengzhou has stopped since flights and trains have been canceled and electrical outages have affected much of the city.
The family and patients at the hospital affiliated with Zhengzhou University, one of the city’s largest hospitals, have sent cries for help after the flooded ground floor, which cut off electricity.
Xi Jinping, president of China, said the situation is “extremely severe” and ordered officials to “lead the charge” to protect life and property.
The shock and online rage were mainly directed at Zhengzhou’s weather forecasts for not warning residents enough, and also at the state media minimizing the severity of the floods.
A widely circulated article said local state media had initially said people trapped in subway cars were not in danger.
“Even if it was once in a millennium of rain that caused the Zhengzhou floods, it may not be a natural disaster,” the article says. “If the dam drains. . . it caused the flood, so it’s definitely a man-made disaster. ”
Social media users also aired a recent clip from CCTV, the state broadcaster, where a news reader praised China’s use of “scientific methods” to launch a “complete and systematic” response to heavy rains, in what appeared to be a veiled excavation to the severity of the recent floods in Germany.
Zhengzhou is located in the low-lying and floodplain plain of northern China, on the southern banks of the Yellow River. The city has invested billions of renminbi in defense construction by the time the river breaks its banks.
In 2018, the city government said it will spend Rmb53bn by 2020 to transform a fifth of Zhengzhou into a “sponge” city, capable of absorbing heavy rains with watercourses and permeable construction materials.
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