Flooding Death Toll in China Rises Sharply
The number of people who died in recent flooding in central China has risen dramatically to 302, officials said on Monday, more than tripling the previously reported total and raising questions about the scale of the disaster.
It was not immediately clear why the number of people killed in central Henan Province had risen so sharply. The new figure was released by Wu Guoding, the provincial vice-governor, at a press conference on Monday that began with Wang Kai, the governor of Henan, and other officials bowing in tribute to those killed in flooding.
Mr. Wu said the toll included the number of people who died between July 16 and Monday. At a press conference Thursday, officials in Henan said 99 people had died in the flooding since July 16. There have been no reports of major flooding since Thursday, suggesting a delay in reporting past deaths. At least 50 people are still missing, officials said.
In central areas of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province, 108 people died, including 14 in a subway tunnel that quickly flooded, leaving people trapped in a train as water rose to the ceiling , and six in a highway tunnel that was flooded.
Many of those killed were in smaller towns administered by Zhengzhou, including 64 in Gongyi, 58 in Xingyang, 46 in Xinmi and 12 in Dengfeng, the official Henan Daily reported on Monday.
The total included 189 dead in floodwaters and mudslides, 54 dead in collapsed structures and 39 others drowned in basements, underground garages and tunnels, according to the newspaper.
Authorities have described the heavy downpour over the region last month as theoretically an event lasting at least one in every 1,000 years.
The State Council, the Chinese cabinet, said on Monday that it was setting up a team to investigate the flooding, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. The team will come up with ways to improve flood management and hold accountable anyone who has not done their job, he said.
Chinese authorities have at times been slow to issue comprehensive disaster death tolls. In July 2012, after parts of Beijing were flooded with heavy rains, the government announced a death toll of 37, although many city residents believed the number was higher.
Days after some Beijing residents began to compile a list of those killed and a state television reporter confronted officials at a press conference, the government confirmed that 77 people had died.
Floods are a complex phenomenon with multiple causes, including land use planning and soil conditions. While the link between climate change and a single flood requires careful scientific analysis, climate change, which already causes more rainfall in many storms, is an increasingly important part of the mix. A warmer atmosphere retains and releases more water, whether in the form of rain or heavy snow in winter.
Claire Fu and Li You contributed to the Beijing research.
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