Digger Trucks Drafted to Rescue People Stranded in China Floods

ZHENGZHOU, China (Reuters) -
An aerial view shows rescue workers evacuating residents on a boat sailing past stranded vehicles following heavy rainfall in Zhengzhou, Henan Province, China Thursday. (Reuters/Aly Song)

Workers driving construction vehicles rescued stranded residents and delivered food to those still trapped on Friday after days of torrential rain swamped the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou.

As floodwaters began to recede, rescuers in the city of 12 million used digger trucks, inflatable boats and other makeshift rafts to transport some residents to dry land and deliver provisions to others in high-rise apartment blocks.

Zhengzhou, the capital city of populous Henan Province, has borne the brunt of extreme wet weather in central China this week, receiving the equivalent of a year’s worth of rain in just a few days. The resulting severe flooding killed 12 people who were trapped in the city’s subway system. It also downed power lines and stranded residents at home, in offices and on public transportation.

Some of the rescuers are volunteers using makeshift water craft, like the digger trucks deployed by local construction companies.

In other areas of the city where the floodwaters had subsided, municipal workers started the clean-up, sweeping away tree branches and clearing up other debris like marooned bicycles and scooters.

Tens of thousands of rescue workers, including the military, have been deployed across Henan more broadly. The death toll for the province from the flooding currently stands at 33. Eight people remained missing as patchy mobile phone signal and power blackouts in some areas hindered official tallying.

Rescue professionals from neighboring provinces have been called in, along with specialized vehicles to drain waterlogged streets, intersections and underground road tunnels.

While the rains in Zhengzhou had eased to a light drizzle, other parts of Henan were still forecast to receive heavy rain on Friday, according to weather reports.

In Xinxiang, a city north of Zhengzhou, 29 of 30 reservoirs were overflowing, a situation the local water conservancy bureau described as “grim.”

For rescuers, the task was sometimes upsetting. Local media reported that a three-to-four-year-old infant was pulled from a collapsed home just outside Zhengzhou earlier this week, with the body of the child’s mother found a day later.

The devastation and loss of life has sparked public criticism of the slow reaction of Zhengzhou’s subway operator, prompting the Chinese government to order local authorities to immediately improve urban transit flood controls and emergency responses.

The provincial weather bureau also came under fire for a lack of warning, despite saying said it had issued a forecast two days before the rains arrived.