This is what it looks like when a city floods in real-time
Remember the sudden heavy rain that caught New York City off guard and flooded the subway earlier this month? Something similar happened in Zhengzhou, China, on Wednesday, with absolutely devastating results. As rain poured from the sky and dams and reservoirs were overwhelmed, water leaked into the city of more than 10 million people, flooding the roads and filling the underground tunnels of the city's subway system. As many as 100,000 people were evacuated from Zhengzhou, and at least 25 people have been reported dead, according to Reuters.
China's Henan province has been hit with day after day of rain, and that weather has taken its toll on the region's infrastructure. Roads have turned into running rivers with rising water levels sweeping up cars and debris and carrying them away. The fast currents and constant flow of water have created a dangerous environment above ground, resulting in the city mobilizing its military to try to reinforce dams and divert the flow of water to keep it from pouring into heavily populated areas. Flights, trains, buses, and other public transportation in the region has been suspended, leaving hundreds of thousands of people stranded. According to Reuters, some workers have reported sleeping in their office building because they are unable to leave. Residents have gotten swept up in the water and search and rescue missions have been launched to save them.
As above, so below — and the scenes from the Zhengzhou subway are particularly harrowing. Footage posted to social media shows water flowing into the underground stations and rising as passengers rush to get into subway cars. The doors of the trains weren't able to keep the water out, as videos show dozens of people huddling with water up to their waistline and even higher than that. As many as 500 people have been rescued so far from the rising tides and pulled out of the tunnels, according to the BBC.
"The water reached my chest," one person who took a flooded subway car wrote on social media, according to Reuters. "I was really scared, but the most terrifying thing was not the water, but the diminishing air supply in the carriage."
China is not alone in its struggle to handle extreme weather. New York City's infrastructure got pushed to the brink by a sudden rainstorm earlier this month that left subway platforms partially flooded and some roadways unusable. Western Europe — including parts of Germany, Belgium, and Austria — was hit with record flooding last week. Despite the fact that the weather didn't catch the region off guard, as extreme rain was predicted ahead of time, cities simply weren't built to withstand the type of pressure that much water puts on infrastructure. Thousands of people had their homes destroyed and at least 200 people lost their lives in the floods.
The sad fact is this is going to keep happening. As the planet continues to warm, extreme weather will get worse and more destructive; scientists now believe that "once a century" storms and floods are expected to happen every single year in some regions. There is no escaping this. We can start addressing the cause, or we can accept this as our new, terrifying normal.