ORDINARY people became heroes when they aided victims after unexpected torrential rain hit Central China’s Henan province last Tuesday and caused major floods in many places and turned streets into streams.
Its provincial capital Zhengzhou was the worst hit.
The city of nearly 13 million people recorded a rainfall of over 600mm in four days.
It started at 8pm on July 17 and was equivalent to a year of rain, or about one-fifth of the annual rainfall in Malaysia.
It recorded a rainfall of over 200mm within an hour last Tuesday.
As places became inundated and the situation worsened, many people reached out to those stranded via various social media platforms.
“If you are stuck, do come to our office to take a rest,” said a message.
“Come to our place, we have food and staff hostel,” said another.
Posts like these were popping up all over the Internet.
Good Samaritans transformed their staff dormitories or homes into temporary shelters. Some also brought food and water to those stranded in public transport stations.
Public places, including Zhengzhou Library, stayed open during the night.
A mother burst into tears when she found out that her son, who was doing his revision there, would be safe.
“I was worried the whole afternoon. Many thanks to the library,” she said, as reported by China Daily.
Just as rescuers were busy attending to distress calls, a horrific incident involving 500 commuters trapped in a subway train was reported.
Recounting the nightmarish event, travellers said everything happened so quickly and they could do nothing as the water rose in the tunnel.
At one point, they almost lost hope when the tunnel was completely filled with water.
“I could see nothing outside but water.
“And inside, the water reached my neck. The train had also tilted to one side.
“Oxygen levels were so low that I could hardly breathe,” an unidentified victim told the media after he was pulled to safety.
Another victim, known only as Chen, said the train made several emergency stops along its route and came to a total halt in between two stations around 6pm.
“We stayed calm at the beginning, but some people started to panic as the floodwater gushed in and rose to knee level,” he added.
According to online posts by trapped passengers sending out SOS messages, the subway driver had asked them to move to the front carriages which were on higher ground.
Within an hour, the last few carriages were fully submerged and water was at the level of an adult person’s chest or neck.
“There were people crying or calling their family members to deliver their final message.
“We let the shorter ones stand on the seats and took turns to hold the children up,” wrote the helpless victims.
One of those trapped was journalist Xiao Pei, who sent out two messages at 7.30pm to say that the water had reached her chest.
“All the emergency units, the Fire Department, please save us! Spread the message, we are trapped in the tunnel of subway line 5,” she wrote.
After being trapped for about four hours, rescuers managed to break the carriage door and window and started pulling passengers out one by one.
“Pregnant ladies were rescued first followed by children, senior citizens and disabled, and finally the rest of the passengers,” recounted a victim.
Another passenger said there was some turmoil in the train earlier.
She said that a passenger tried to smash the window in a desperate bid to escape but was stopped by others who feared his act would only make matters worse in the already flooded compartments.
Some passengers joined the rescue efforts to help other stranded passengers.
According to the city government, 12 people died and five others were injured in the incident. The cause of death was not revealed.
In a separate incident, rescuers brought to safety 31 passengers, who were waiting anxiously on the roof of an express bus the next morning.
The downpour in Henan had been forecast, with the relevant departments sending out alerts to warn the public to be prepared.
But what they did not expect was the severity of the rainfall.
Last week, 27 weather stations in Henan recorded the highest rainfall in history.
As at Friday morning, the disasters claimed 33 lives and resulted in the relocation of hundred of thousands of people across the province.
Chinese celebrities have also chipped in to purchase rescue tools, relief items and food for the victims.