A dozen people died Wednesday after getting trapped in a flooded subway in Zhengzhou, China — which was inundated by what experts said were the heaviest rains in 1,000 years.
Horrifying video captured terrified commuters chest-deep in the gushing water on a train as an underground station in the city in central Henan province was swept by the roiling flood. More than 500 people were rescued.
“The water reached my chest,” one straphanger wrote on social media. “I was really scared, but the most terrifying thing was not the water, but the diminishing air supply in the carriage.”
President Xi Jinping called the flood control situation “very severe” and ordered authorities to “prioritize the safety of people’s lives and properties,” CNN reported, citing state news agency Xinhua.
Footage broadcast by the Chinese outlet shows passengers trapped inside the flooded subway car, packed tightly together as the water climbs higher while dark floodwater surges down the tracks.
Many of those trapped posted desperate calls for help on social media.
“The water inside the carriage has reached chest-levels! I already can’t speak anymore, please help!” wrote one woman, who went by the name Xiaopei, CNN reported.
“If no rescue comes in 20 minutes, several hundreds of us will lose our lives in Zhengzhou subway,” she added later. Authorities later confirmed she had been rescued.
A woman was captured in one video posted by the BBC being rescued after being swept down a street flooded by muddy water and another clip shows children and teachers being rescued from a flooded school in Zhengzhou.
Due to the epic deluge, authorities in the city of 12 million people about 400 miles southwest of Beijing had halted bus services, said a Zhengzhou resident surnamed Guo, who spent the night at his office.
“That’s why many people took the subway, and the tragedy happened,” Guo told Reuters.
The death toll since the torrential rains began last weekend rose to at least 16 on Wednesday, with four residents reported dead in Gongyi, a city located by the banks of the Yellow River, like Zhengzhou, according to local reports.
More rain is forecast across Henan for the next three days, and the People’s Liberation Army has deployed more than 3,000 troops and personnel to help with search and rescue.
The rainfall in Zhengzhou in the past three days was on a level seen only “once in a thousand years,” according to local meteorologists.
Scientists told Reuters that the extreme rainfall in China was almost certainly linked to global warming, as is the case of the major flooding that has ravaged Western Europe. “The common thread here is clearly global warming,” Johnny Chan, professor of atmospheric science at City University of Hong Kong, told the news agency.
“Such extreme weather events will likely become more frequent in the future. What is needed is for governments (city, provincial and national) to develop strategies to adapt to such changes,” he added.