China investigates Henan flood disaster as death toll mounts
- Provincial authorities revise up number killed to 302, triple the number reported last week
- A panel will be convened to look into the catastrophe and make recommendations
The Henan government said that 292 people were killed in the provincial capital of Zhengzhou after the area was hit by torrential rain on July 17.
Of those 302, Henan officials said, 189 were killed by floods and mudslides in the city, 54 died after being buried by collapsed houses and 39 were trapped in flooded basements, garages and other underground areas.
Seven people were killed in Xinxiang, two in Pingdingshan and one in Luohe. Another 50 people are still missing, 47 of them from Zhengzhou.
Henan governor Wang Kai and other senior provincial officials offered their condolences to the flood victims and their families.
Counting the financial cost of deadly flooding in China’s central city of Zhengzhou
The State Council has set up an investigation task force led by the Ministry of Emergency Management to look into the disaster.
The panel will include technical experts to “scientifically evaluate the catastrophe” and the lessons that should be learned from it.
State news agency Xinhua said that the panel was expected to come up with recommendations, while cadres found to be at fault for dereliction of duty would be held accountable.
Zhengzhou residents mourn subway flood victims in China’s central Henan province
Floods are an annual event in China, especially during the summer and along major rivers such as the Yangtze and in coastal provinces.
These floods usually occur after prolonged rain and are concentrated in river basins, giving authorities and residents time to shore up their flood defences and prepare evacuation plans.
But the flash floods in Zhengzhou last month were both sudden and unprecedented. About 617 mm (24.3 inches) of rain, roughly a year’s worth, was recorded over three days from 8pm on July 17. The disastrous floods, which have been described as the worst in decades, also disrupted phone and internet service, and threatened to collapse ageing dams and flood defence facilities.
The economic losses in Henan alone were estimated to be at least 89 billion yuan (US$13.79 billion) as of last week. In all, 150 counties covering 1,663 townships and housing more than 14.5 million people were affected in the province.
The provincial government said it had evacuated more than 930,000 people in an emergency response and relocated nearly 1.5 million at its peak. Nearly 90,000 houses have been toppled and 5,800 km sq of crops destroyed.
Meanwhile, the province is also battling to contain the fast-spreading coronavirus Delta variant. As of Saturday, Zhengzhou health authorities had reported eight new confirmed cases and 27 other asymptomatic cases in the city, of which 34 were related to an outbreak at Henan Infectious Disease Hospital.
This latest outbreak was reported after two asymptomatic and four confirmed cases were reported last week.