Bejing: The death toll from last month's unprecedented flash floods triggered by the heaviest rainfall in a thousand years in central China's Henan province has climbed to 302, three times higher than the previous official figures. The Chinese government on Monday ordered a probe into the handling of the calamity.
In Henan province's capital, Zhengzhou -- which was the worst-hit -- a total of 292 people were confirmed dead and 47 still missing, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported, quoting local officials. The previous death toll, announced by provincial authorities on Friday, was 99. Now, the provincial death toll stands at 302, while 50 others are still missing.
More than 14.53 million people in 150 county-level regions had been affected by the torrential rains. Over 1.09 million hectares of crops were damaged, and over 30,600 houses collapsed across the province, the report said.
Since July 16, record rainstorms had inundated Henan. In Zhengzhou, 617.1 mm of rainfall fell over a three-day period, which is close to the city's average annual rainfall amount. The city also registered a record hourly precipitation rate of 201.9 mm. In the aftermath of the worst flood in the region, the local government came under severe criticism for not being transparent about the loss of life and damage caused by the deluge.
As the death toll shot up, the State Council (China's Cabinet) announced Monday that it has decided to set up an investigation team to assess the response to the devastating flood in Zhengzhou.
The team will be headed by the Ministry of Emergency Management and include officials and experts from relevant departments, an official statement said. The investigation aims to summarise the experience and lessons drawn from the response and propose measures that can be taken to improve disaster prevention and relief in the future.
Those who are found breaching their duties in the Zhengzhou flood will be held responsible according to the law and regulations, it added. Zhengzhou, a metropolis of 12.6 million people, saw tragic scenes as floodwaters inundated metro trains and tunnels leading to the deaths of a large number of people.
Several hospitals were also flooded and officials made desperate efforts to shift patients to safety.
The Chinese Army sent its troops to a damaged dike in Yichuan county to explode it to divert the floodwater.
The massive floods, described by meteorologists as a once-in-a-lifetime event, has resulted in apocalyptic scenes in Zhengzhou, with its public avenues and subway tunnels getting submerged in surging waters. Videos on social media showed people stuck in cars being washed away by rampaging waters in the main streets of the city.
In the videos, petrified passengers trapped in subway trains were seen clinging on to the rails, desperately waiting for help as floodwaters raised up to their necks.
People were seen trying to wade through floods in the downtown area of the city, while scores of cars and other vehicles washed away. Some videos also showed people falling into the massive cave-ins of the roads.
The downtown area of Zhengzhou received average precipitation of 457.5 mm within 24 hours, the highest daily rainfall since the weather record began, Xinhua reported. Henan is home to many cultural sites and a major base for industry and agriculture. According to several media reports, Shaolin Temple, known for its Buddhist monks' mastery of martial arts, was also severely hit by the floods.
Weather forecasters described the extreme event as the heaviest rainfall in 1,000 years. Currently, the railway, civil aviation, expressways and major roads in Henan have resumed traffic. The urban and rural public transportation and communication networks have also resumed, the Xinhua report said.
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