Life at the water’s edge in the flooded Chinese city of Wuhan
There were two noes in just a few minutes at Wuhan’s main train station but it was hardly surprising.
No, there were no shuttle buses to the city centre, and no, there were no taxis heading downtown, I was told.
“Today the weather is just impossible,” a taxi driver said.
By the time I arrived in the Hubei capital and waded out of the partially flooded station at around noon yesterday, the central Chinese megacity had received more than 570mm of rain in one week, surpassing the previous record of 542.5mm set in 1991.
The deluge had filled every lake in the area to the brim and swelled the Yangtze River, which Wuhan straddles. It had also disrupted traffic on more than 200 roads, and flooded metro stations and underpasses, bringing the city to a near-standstill.
Even for residents used to seasonal flooding, yesterday stood out.
“My boss called at a little after five in the morning to say I didn’t have to go to work. The area near our company, which is close to the swollen Lake Tangxun, was badly flooded,” one resident said.
Several days earlier, a wall at a factory near his firm collapsed under the weight of the downpours, killing eight people.
But this was not a day for staying home – the resident was going to brave the rain with two friends to see how high the Yangtze had risen.
“I heard the river is nearly full, close to the brink of its banks. I have to see it before it falls back when the rain stops,” he said.
Others were already at the river’s edge in Wuchang district.
“This is the first time I have seen such a high level of water in the 15 years I have lived in the city,” resident Tai Shan said.
The Yangtze had already risen to 28.07 metres and was closing in on a record of 29.43 metres set in the 1998. The surging levels had submerged two sets of steps and a platform along the embankment.
“On normal days, you can walk out there,” Tai said, pointing to a spot 20 metres away where several ships had dropped anchor.