Henan Province suffered much rainfall recently. On July 20, the streets of its capital city, Zhengzhou, were completely under water and cars were washed away.
The videos of people trapped in subway trains, which the city kept running during the flood, were widespread on social media. Around 6 p.m. on July 20, subway trains were stuck underground due to the water. Water started to flow into the cars through the doors and kept accumulating. Some reported water reached 1.6 meters high. Passengers stood on chairs to keep their heads above water and parents held their babies in the air. People started to call their families to leave their wills and account information. Quite a few people lost conscience as there was not enough air. Finally the rescuers arrived and many people were saved. The authorities announced 12 deaths. The people who survived the tragedy questioned this number.
A bigger controversy was that people questioned whether the disaster was caused by the authorities’ releasing flood water from the reservoir near Zhengzhou without first informing the public.
An article listing several suspicious points was widely spread over the Internet. China Digital Times saved a copy in case the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) deleted the article. The following is a summary of the highlights:
1. When were people saved?
A number of the Zhengzhou and the Henan Provincial news media declared victory in early evening. Zhengzhou News Radio said at 7:23 p.m. that all passengers were saved. The Huanqiu website quoted Zhengzhou News at 8:02 p.m. stating people were saved. Henan Province Daxiang News reported victory at 9:17 p.m.
However, an online video showed that a passenger said it was past 8 p.m. and rescuers had not arrived yet. A microblog posting at 11:25 p.m. said that his family members were trapped in the subway No. 5 line and had not been rescued yet, but that posting was removed very quickly. Another microblog posted at 3:09 a.m. on July 21 said people at the Guangnan Road Station of subway No. 5 line had been trapped from 6 p.m. till then and still were waiting to be rescued.
Xinhua News Agency also reported at 0:54 a.m. on July 21 that the rescue was still ongoing and the number of casualties was unknown.
2. How substantial was the amount of rain?
The Zhengzhou authorities blamed the weather for the disaster. The Zhengzhou official weather microblog said, “Zhengzhou had rain of 201.9 mm (millimeters) in one hour (4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on July 20), and 552.5 mm in one day (8 p.m. on July 19 to 8 p.m. on July 20).”
However, the National Weather Bureau had a top article discussing the Henan heavy rainfall, “Hehan Province has had heavy rainfall since July 17. Zhengzhou’s average rainfall (from July 17 to 20) was 357 mm. In one day (from 5 p.m. July 19 to 5 p.m. July 20), the average rainfall in Henan Province was 73.1 mm and that in Zhengzhou was 286.5 mm. … The biggest rainfall occurred in Zhengzhou’s Jiangang site, which was 584.0 mm.”
It seems that the Zhengzhou officials exaggerated the rainfall dramatically. It took the biggest rainfall in one location and made it the city average.
3. Did the government release water from the reservoir near Zhengzhou?
Around 10 p.m. on July 20, messages started to spread among social media in China that the water broke the main gate of the Changzhou Reservoir and the authorities bombed the sub-gates to release floodwater.
The Henan Public Security Bureau sent a microblog message at 11:06 p.m. immediately to declare this was a rumor.
However, The Beijing News published an article at 0:48 a.m. on July 21, stating, “The Changzhuang Reservoir opened the gates to release flood-water around 4 p.m. on July 20.” It quoted the source as being from the CCTV Military channel.
National Business Daily reported at 10:53 p.m. on July 20, “According to CCTV news, … The water at the Changzhuang Reservoir reached 127.87 meters at 10:57 a.m. on July 20, which was 0.38 meters above the “alerting” water level. Following the Henan Provincial and Zhengzhou Municipal Flood Control Command’s order, the reservoir started releasing flood-water at 3 cubic meters per second.”
Baidu Encyclopedia said that the Changzhuang Reservoir was 2 km (around 1.2 mile) away from Zhengzhou’s Xihuan Road. The Reservoir dam was 36.74 meters above the center of Zhengzhou city and 52.74 meters above the Zhengdong New District, of Zhengzhou.
All these media, including CCTV said that the Changzhuang Reservoir released water. The timeline seemed to be a good match: The reservoir released water around 4 p.m. and subway trains in Zhengzhou were taken over by flood-water around 6 p.m.
The article questioned whether the authorities were trying to cover up their releasing flood water without notifying the public, which caused a huge disaster for the people.
Source: China Digital Times, July 20, 2021