CHINA / SOCIETY
Update: 6 die at flooded Jingguang Tunnel in Henan; survivors recall escape in heavy rainfall
Published: Jul 23, 2021 04:35 PM Updated: Jul 26, 2021 06:20 PM
Workers pump water at the Jingguang North Road tunnel. A rescue team carried out drainage operations in the tunnel from north to south in Zhengzhou on Thursday. Photo: VCG

Workers pump water at the Jingguang North Road tunnel. A rescue team carried out drainage operations in the tunnel from north to south in Zhengzhou on Thursday. Photo: VCG


Update: Six deaths from the tunnel, including five men and one woman, have been reported in the unprecedented floods, Henan government said at a press conference on Monday afternoon.

Rescue efforts including large-scale drainage operations are still under way on Friday at Jingguang Tunnel - a flooded 2-km-long underpass, where numerous vehicles had been trapped since Tuesday in Zhengzhou, Central China's Henan Province.

Two deaths from the tunnel have been reported as of Friday morning and a total of 51 fatalities have been reported in the unprecedented floods.

The drainage and dredging work was still underway at around 4 pm on Friday. As of press time, the east culvert of the Jingguang Tunnel hasn't resumed traffic flow, with the tunnel having been flooded with water for more than 70 hours.

Video clips that captured the touching moments of citizens voluntarily helping and supporting others in floods spread widely on Chinese social media on Friday. 

In a video, a man, who escaped from his car at the underpass as the water overflows the wheels, is busy with loudly warning other trapped car owners to abandon the cars and escape. "As a member of the Communist Party of China, this [helping others] was what I should do," he says in the video.

The man named Hou Wenchao recalled that he was stuck in traffic for over an hour at the underpass around 4 pm Tuesday, when there was a heavy rain. "Within five minutes, the water level rose rapidly and submerged half our car," Hou told the Global Times in Zhengzhou on Friday. 

Personally, having experienced a heavy rainfall in Beijing in 2012, Hou thought he and other people trapped in cars must leave as soon as possible, or they could be in mortal danger.

"So I jumped out of my car, hit on doors of the cars around and persuaded dozens of people to escape from the car," Hou said.

"When we left the underpass some 20 minutes later, the water was completely over the car roofs; we could barely see our cars in the floods," he told the Global Times.

In another video uploaded by Zhengzhou-based media platform Zhengguan, a retired special forces soldier named Yang Junkui jumped into the muddy water at the underpass and saved five trapped people. 

An ex-soldier, Yang said it was his instinctive reaction to save lives. "If I didn't help, [they] might be flooded by water within seconds," he recalls in the video, which has had more than 6.6 million views on Weibo as of Friday afternoon.

Videos circulating online also show hundreds of vehicles piling up along the length of the tunnel. Uniformed soldiers and other rescue personnel are seen busy with pumping and recovery efforts. Local people with family members losing contact in Zhengzhou are seen waiting near the tunnel.

Parents of 14-year-old Kunkun, who was reportedly near the tunnel with his friend before losing contact with the family, kept a close watch of the rescue near the tunnel, in hope of finding their son, reported thepaper.cn.

A survivor Liu Lin (not her real name) told thepaper.cn that since her car was at the rightmost lane in the tunnel on Tuesday evening, it was washed to the guardrail along the tunnel when flood suddenly inundated the tunnel at about 7 pm. 

With the help of other drivers, she managed to open the car door and climb onto the car roof and then the guardrail and finally got saved by others. "My car being at the rightmost lane then is the critical point for me to escape," Liu recounted.

The flooded underpass, and the trapped people and vehicles there, took the hearts of many people nationwide on Friday. On social media, netizens prayed for their safety and applauded for those who offered a helping hand without hesitation.

"I must give a thumbs-up to Hou, he was so smart," a Weibo user wrote. "His persuading others to escape from the car avoided many possible casualties at the Jingguang Tunnel."

"I heard that Yang's employer, granted Yang a car for his brave deed of saving five people; that's nice," another commented, saying it's not easy to rescue people in water, which needs both courage and skill. "Yang is a hero. He is worthy of this reward."


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