Where are the floods in China? Worst affected areas during 2021 flooding as record rainfall hits Henan province

The city of Zhengzhou has been badly affected by severe flooding, with more than 20cm of rain falling there over a single hour on Tuesday. More rain is forecast today, lasting until Thursday

At least a dozen people died in severe flooding in China that trapped people in subways and schools, washed away vehicles and stranded people in their workplaces overnight (Feng Xiaomin/Xinhua via AP/Getty Images)

Severe floods in central China have left 12 people dead and forced more than 200,000 to flee their homes.

Parts of the country have been hit by record-breaking rainfall. Footage posted on social media showed water cascading through subway stations and people wading through chest-high torrents in streets.

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More than 20cm of rain fell on the city of Zhengzhou in Henan province over a single hour on Tuesday (20 July).

The serious floods that hit parts of western Europe last week saw 18.2cm of rainfall over three days in the worst affected areas of Germany.

So, where are the floods in China and what has caused them?

Here’s what you need to know.

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Vehicles pass through floodwaters in Zhengzhou in central China's Henan Province (Zhu Xiang/Xinhua via AP)

Where are the floods in China?

The massive floods have hit Henan province, affecting more than a dozen cities.

The province is home to about 94 million people.

It issued its highest level of weather warning following the rainfall, and local authorities called the floods a “once in 100 years” event.

Staff members set up warning signs with the words 'Danger!' at a waterlogged area in Wuzhi County in central China's Henan Province (Feng Xiaomin/Xinhua via AP)

The rain started over the weekend and intensified on Tuesday.

More than 3000 weather stations in Henan saw rainfall exceeding 5cm, with 1,614 showing levels above 10cm and 151 above 25cm.

Pictures and video footage from the region showed large volumes of water raging through streets and picking up cars.

The provincial capital Zhengzhou, which has a population of 12 million, was hit badly and saw widespread flooding by Tuesday night.

It’s located on the bank of the Yellow River, which is one of China’s largest waterways.

Power was cut to some parts of the city, while trains were suspended, roads were closed and flights were delayed.

A distressing social media post showed commuters trapped in flood water nearly up to their heads on a subway train, while another video showed water rushing onto platforms.

Twelve people have died after the underground railway tunnels were flooded when some of the city’s flood defences were overwhelmed, leaving passengers unable to get away from rising waters. Five people are being treated for injuries.

Officials said more than 500 people were eventually rescued from the tunnels after an evacuation operation was started.

The First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou Hospital also lost power for a short amount of time on Tuesday night, said a statement on Weibo by the Zhengzhou Municipal Party Committee. Six hundred critically ill patients were transferred to a new location, it said.

Other cities in Henan, including Ruzhou, were also affected by the severe flooding.

The Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng was forced to close. An aluminum plant in the city exploded, resulting in water pouring into the factory.

Dozens of reservoirs in Henan have gone over their warning levels. The Yihetan dam, in the city of Luoyang, saw a 20-metre breach as a result of the rainfall and a statement from the army said it could “collapse at any time”.

Meanwhile, in Zhengzhou, the flood control headquarters said the city’s reservoir, Guojiazui, had been breached.

What has caused the flooding?

The Henan province has experienced “rare and severe rainfall” since Saturday (17 July), China’s weather authority said.

The amount of rain that has fallen in Zhengzhou over the past few days has been reported to be the same as what the city would usually receive in a full year.

A warming atmosphere caused by climate change increases the chances of severe rainfall.

During China’s rainy season, flooding can be common and part of the Yellow River basin has several major river systems running through Henan which are flood-prone.

However, the expansion of cities in the country and transforming agricultural land into housing has exacerbated the problem.

Scientists have warned that widespread dam construction has also made climate change issues in the flood zone worse.

Connections between rivers and lakes have been broken and disrupted floodplains which once served the purpose of absorbing a lot of the region’s annual summer rainfall.

Speaking on state television, Chinese President Xi Jinping said: "Flood prevention efforts have become very difficult."

He added that the floods had resulted in “significant loss of life and damage to property”, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Forecasters are predicting the extreme rainfall will end by Thursday (22 July), but before that parts of Henan could continue to see “severe or extremely severe storms”.

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