The government often goes to great lengths to manage information about disasters, limiting news coverage and censoring blogs and social media sites over concerns about public dissatisfaction with prevention and rescue efforts. Already, some people on Chinese chat platforms and social media sites have raised questions about whether official news outlets in Zhengzhou and Henan Province initially downplayed the flood in the subway system.
In times of disaster, the country’s state news media often focuses on the efforts of rescue workers, including the military, while playing down the causes of disasters and their damage. A journalism professor, Zhan Jiang, posted a note on Weibo, the social media platform, complaining that a television station in Henan Province continued to show its regular programming instead of providing public safety information.
In Zhengzhou, torrential rain began on Sunday and continued into Wednesday. It was the heaviest on record in the city, according to China’s state television network, CCTV.
At one point, the city saw nearly eight inches of rain in one hour. In one day, the region recorded roughly the average annual rainfall. More than 140,000 people had to be evacuated, the reports said.
The downpour flooded roads and railways and disrupted operations at the airport, CCTV reported. A passenger train carrying 735 people came to a stop near Zhengzhou for more than 40 hours and had run out of food and water. Aerial photographs showed scores of cars all but covered by muddy water, the fate of their drivers and passengers unknown.
Videos circulating online showed cars and even people being swept away. At least one hospital, First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University, was reported to be inundated with floodwater, losing electricity and jeopardizing patients being treated or monitored with electrical medical devices.
Flooding was also reported in several cities near Zhengzhou, where people posted pleas for help on WeChat and Weibo, two of the country’s biggest social networks. In Gongyi, at least 20,000 people were displaced by floodwaters that inundated scores of homes and washed away roads, according to reports.
Claire Fu, Li You, Liu Yi and Albee Zhang contributed research.