China
Life during the heavy rainstorms that hit Zhengzhou
By Gu Yahui  ·  2021-08-03  ·   Source: NO.31 AUGUST 7, 2021
Vehicles run on a waterlogged road in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan Province, on July 20 (XINHUA)

Around 3 p.m. on July 19, it started to rain. It continued to rain with occasional showers landing in the city throughout the night.

On July 20, I had to avoid the puddles on my way to work. The rain was getting heavier. WeChat Moments, the messaging app's feature for posting microblogs, was rife with jokes about Zhengzhou becoming the new Venice.

At noon, a colleague who had just returned from Zhongmu County, in the eastern part of the city, said that water almost reached half the way up his car wheels. In the afternoon, we grew more concerned as more information was being released. Messages kept popping up across computer screens.

Around 3 p.m., the "Henan rainstorm" ranked fifth on Chinese Internet search titan Baidu's buzzwords. I started to worry about how I was going to get home. I was starting to grow tired of my friends' rain jokes, too.

When the clock turned 5 p.m., I received videos of people swimming across a road-turned-river. A colleague driving along an overhead road told me his windshield failed to work against the battering rain. I found myself at a loss.

At 5:30 p.m., I considered heading home when my neighbor informed me that at the front gate of my apartment complex, the water had already reached a depth of 1.2 meters. Some of my colleagues suggested I buy a pair of slippers and just wade through the water.

Soon after my neighbor's call, I saw videos saying that the water had poured into several stations of lines 1 and 2 of the Zhengzhou Metro. Then some colleagues who had left earlier called to say they would be coming back as all ways of public transportation had come to a halt.

Around 6:20 p.m., my colleagues returning to the office complained about empty supermarket shelves. In some residences, apparently, water and electricity had already been cut off.

At 7 p.m., the city government activated its Level I emergency response, the highest. I told my parents I would stay in the office for the night. My father said that near a bridge on Longhai Road, water levels had already risen up to people's waists.

So I stayed put, without the faintest idea as to when and how this would all end.

We all refused the boss' offer to go to hotel because we'd already seen the images of people lying on hotel lobby floors. In the hallway, we met some people from neighboring companies, who had all returned to the office.

People were posting "Come on, Zhengzhou!" on social media. Perhaps through encouraging others, people can find a bit of relief for themselves, I thought to myself. Friends outside of Henan told me to look after myself.

Around 8 p.m., we were notified that the Changzhuang Reservoir was in danger and residents living within a 100-meter range of the Jialu and Xiong'er rivers would have to be evacuated. Emergency response personnel rushed to the reservoir. If the reservoir could no longer hold, the city would be inundated. Residents were told to stay tuned and carefully listen to any new notice.

More calls for help came from people stuck on metro Line 5. Unfortunately, as it turned out, not all of them made it out of there alive; 14 died.

News agencies were live-streaming the flood in Zhengzhou on video-sharing app Douyin. I decided I'd had enough information. I fell asleep.

July 21. When I was back at my apartment complex in the evening, the small grocery store downstairs only had seasonings and beverages left. The elevator inside the building had suspended operation. But water and electricity were still up and running.

Later that night, the rain poured on. The weather was hot. I had to think of those families stuck without water and electricity.

On July 22, upon opening my eyes, I wondered how senior citizens and children can survive this ordeal. But I felt quite good when I read that more and more people were coming to help us. 

The author is a civil engineer in Zhengzhou, Henan Province

(Print Edition Title: Four Days and Three Nights)

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon

Comments to wanghairong@bjreview.com

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