Following days of torrential rain in China’s Henan province, at least 51 people have died, and around 200,000 people have been forced to move to shelters as severe flooding devastates the provincial capital, Zhengzhou.
The severe rainstorms – which dropped a whole year’s worth of rain across the city Zhengzhou – have now moved north impacting neighbouring cities and regions, with collapsed roads and damaged dams and reservoirs cutting off power leaving thousands trapped without electricity and water supplies.
In attempt to release floodwaters and prevent further damage in Zhengzhou, where people were left stranded in schools, offices and on public transport, China’s military blasted a dam following warnings that it could collapse “at any moment” due to storm damage.
In one incident, 12 people were killed in a swamped train in Zhengzhou.
Locals were unprepared for the downpours as weather forecasters had issued a warning for extreme rain for the wrong place and time predicting that it would hit the city of Jiaozuoa day before the worst downpours happened.
In Zhengzhou a red alert was issued on the morning of 20 July, but by this point many people had already embarked on their journey to work leaving them trapped when a record-breaking 200mm of rain fall in just one hour.
Chen Tao, chief forecaster at the National Meteorological Centre revealed that there has been new measure implemented to improve extreme weather forecasting but admitted that: “There are many uncertainties in extreme weather systems that can affect the accuracy of a forecast.”
Farmers in the Henan region have seen their livelihoods washed with at least 200,000 chickens and up to 6,000 pigs lost in the floods, according to Reuters. Moreover, the flooding has sparked concerns amongst locals surrounding possible animal disease outbreaks.
In 2020, heavy rainfall resulted in dozens of outbreaks of African swine fever, which despite being harmless to humans, is deadly for pigs.
"The disease issue is a much more severe issue than the direct losses," said Pan Chenjun, senior analyst at Rabobank.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs have issued advice on how to prevent outbreaks following the flooding, which includes guidance on carcass disposal and disinfection measures on farms.
Extreme weather conditions and flooding are common in China, particularly in the country’s rainy season, however their impact has worsened in recent years largely due to urbanisation and climate change.