China floods: death toll rises to 302

Heavy downpours since mid-July have affected 13 million people and damaged 9,000 homes

The death toll from floods in central China last month is at least 302 with dozens of people still missing, officials said on Monday, after a year's worth of rain fell on one city in only three days.

Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province and the centre of the record flooding, was hardest hit with 292 people dead and 47 missing, the regional government said, as residents were trapped in subway trains, underground car parks and tunnels.

Images of passengers in shoulder-height water on line 5 of the city's underground went viral on Chinese social media. A total of 14 people died on the line, while dozens of cars in a tunnel were tossed aside by the deluge, many with passengers still inside.

“Thirty-nine people were found dead in underground car parks,” Zhengzhou's mayor Hou Hong said. Another six people were killed in a car tunnel, he said.

The heavy downpours that began on July 17 have affected almost 13 million people, damaged about 9,000 homes and caused economic losses in Henan estimated at 53 billion yuan ($8.2bn).

A large floral tribute at the underground was sealed off last week by authorities, a sign of the government's increasing sensitivity to public criticism of its handling of the disaster.

Foreign journalists covering the floods have been harassed online and on the ground, part of an accelerated purge on any negative portrayal of China.

Reporters from AFP were forced to delete footage by hostile residents and surrounded by dozens of men while reporting on a submerged traffic tunnel in Zhengzhou.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian last week singled out the BBC, labelling it a “Fake News Broadcasting Company” that has “attacked and smeared China, seriously deviating from journalistic standards”.

Updated: August 2nd 2021, 10:53 AM