At least 20 people have died and more than 200,000 have been evacuated after heavy rains triggered floods and landslides in central China.
The provincial capital of Henan, Zhengzhou, was hit by the heaviest rainfall on record, with more than 600 mm of rain falling in 24 hours, equivalent to about 60% of its annual average.
The city’s subway system was inundated with water, trapping passengers in carriages that were submerged up to their necks. Videos on social media showed people clinging to the ceiling of the train or standing on seats to keep their heads above water.
Rescue workers used ropes and ladders to pull out the stranded commuters, while others were able to escape through the windows or doors. Some passengers said they had been stuck for more than three hours without food, water or ventilation.
The floods also disrupted road and rail traffic, cut off power and water supplies, and damaged homes and businesses. The city’s airport canceled hundreds of flights and the local authorities urged residents to stay indoors and avoid unnecessary travel.
The torrential rains have affected more than 10 million people in Henan province, which is home to about 100 million people.
Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed his condolences to the victims and called for all-out efforts to rescue the trapped and prevent further disasters.
The meteorological department said the rains were caused by a stagnant atmospheric pattern that brought warm and moist air from the south. It warned that more heavy downpours were expected in the coming days and urged people to be vigilant.
China is prone to floods during its rainy season, which usually lasts from June to August. However, this year’s rainfall has been unusually intense and widespread, breaking several historical records.