(Bloomberg) -- More than two dozen people have died and 100,000 have been evacuated as catastrophic floods swept through the central Chinese province of Henan.
China Central Television reported that 25 people have been killed while seven others are missing, citing a local government briefing. The city of Zhengzhou earlier said at least 12 died on a subway there.
The floods in China come just days after devastating floods in Germany killed at least 160 people and follows extreme weather around the world. In recent months there’s been heatwaves in the U.S. and Canada, major floods in India, wildfires in Siberia and drought in parts of Africa and Brazil.
Chinese City Hit by Deadly Floods Suffered Heatwaves Days Before
Videos circulating on social media showed passengers trapped in Zhengzhou subway cars on Tuesday evening local time with water up to their shoulders as a torrent cascaded through tunnels. Other videos depicted cars floating down broad avenues in the city, which has a population of 10 million.
The dramatic scenes in Zhengzhou, the result of at least eight months’ worth of rain that fell in 24 hours, comes at a sensitive time for President Xi Jinping, who just oversaw the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party and may get a third term as president in next year’s leadership reshuffle. On Wednesday he described the situation as “very severe,” calling for “authorities at all levels” to put people’s safety first while urging improved early-warning systems for disasters.
The deluge also threatens to disrupt manufacturing and food output in Henan province, which is home to the world’s biggest production base for iPhones.
On Wednesday, rescue workers and authorities continued to work to prevent dam breaches, restore lost power and pump out submerged gas stations. Inbound flights to Zhengzhou have also been suspended.
The impact on manufacturing so far seems limited. Nissan Motor Co Ltd temporarily halted production in Zhengzhou, according to a spokeswoman. SAIC Motor Corp., China’s biggest automaker, said its plant in Zhengzhou hasn’t been damaged. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., which owns a massive iPhone production plant in Zhengzhou, said the flooding has had no direct impact on the facility.
China suffers from floods every year, but more unpredictable weather has made the task of managing them more challenging. Last year’s rainfall was among the worst on record.
Zhengzhou saw 457.5 millimeters (18 inches) of rain fall in the 24 hours through 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the highest since records began for the city, Xinhua reported. That included a record 201.9 millimeters in a single hour, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m, a record for mainland China. Zhengzhou typically receives average annual precipitation of about 640.8 millimeters.
In recent decades, the loss of life due to floods has declined in China due to water control projects and increased efforts in hydrological monitoring and forecasting, as well as a top-down disaster management system that has enabled authorities to respond more quickly.
Environmental nonprofit Greenpeace warned that the weather events in China fit the global pattern of extreme weather brought on by climate change.
“Climate change has made extreme weather like heat waves and floods more frequent and more deadly in the past 20 years,” said the group’s East Asia climate and energy campaigner Liu Junyan. Recent events in Henan, along with North America and Europe “are all wake-up calls reminding people of the climate change crisis.”
The floods may affect food prices. Henan province is the country’s second-largest food producer and accounts for about a quarter of the wheat harvest. While China has already harvested its main wheat crop, earlier rains impacted quality from areas including Henan. That is expected to drive up wheat imports by as much as 40% this year to the highest level since the mid-1990s, according to Bric Agriculture Group, a Beijing-based consulting firm.
Other commodities have also been impacted by the flooding in Henan, which is a key hub for coal and metals. Some aluminum production and scrap-metal procurement has been halted or reduced, according to researcher Mysteel, citing its own survey.
(Updates with background in the third paragraph.)
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