Flooding in Central China Kills 33, Damages Cultural Heritage Sites

Graphic by Annabel Driussi for ODP

by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

After over a week of sudden natural disasters across the globe, at least 33 people have now died in catastrophic floods in central China. The Henan province is currently facing millions of dollars of damage, and 200,000 evacuees are looking for an end to the nightmare. As the army mobilizes to prevent further flooding, experts say that the record-breaking rain and flooding that continue to batter the region result from climate change.  

Why This Matters: Catastrophic flooding is affecting regions around the world.

Not only is this flooding a threat to human lives, but it’s also a threat to cultural history. The Henan province is known as the birthplace of traditional Chinese martial arts, and many are concerned that some historical landmarks will never be recovered. These floods are a somber warning that our history and culture, like our infrastructure, are largely at the whim of climate. If the nations of the world don’t take immediate action, even more history could be lost.

United Front: The city of Zhengzhou, which is home to 12 million people, received a year’s worth of rain in just three days. Twelve people died after being trapped for hours in a flooded subway tunnel. One woman who was evacuated from a subway tunnel described the terror of her experience.

We tried to stand on the seats as much as we could, but even then, the water reached our chests in the end,” she said. “I was really scared, but the most terrifying thing was not the water, but the diminishing air in the carriage — as many seemed to have trouble breathing.”

In the nearby city of Gongyi, four people died as floodwaters overtook the streets, causing building collapses and landslides. The crisis has been captured in photos and videos in horrifying detail. Citizens have taken to social media to seek information about missing relatives and spread the word about what’s happening.

Thousands of soldiers have been deployed to help with rescue and recovery efforts. Several dams have collapsed, and teams have been sent to prevent further breaches. Chinese President Xi Xinping called for leadership and organization in the face of the disaster:

Some reservoirs had their dams burst … causing serious injury, loss of life, and property damage,” he said. “We have already entered the critical stage of flood control, leaders and cadres from all walks of life must … take the lead in commanding, quickly organize forces for flood protection and disaster rescue.”

Meanwhile, cultural heritage sites are facing destruction. The Shaolin temple, a world-famous monastery and martial arts school, has suffered severe water damage, as has the Longmen Grottoes, a UNESCO heritage site. Officials say they’ve secured the sites despite the damage, but as cities face tens of millions in damages, it’s not certain that these sites will be restored to their former glory.

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