Flooding In China: The City Of Zhengzhou Reels After Historic Rains Flooding continues to devastate the city of Zhengzhou in the central Chinese province of Henan, where thousands remain stranded without power or food.

Record-Breaking Flooding In China Has Left Over One Million People Displaced

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Extreme weather events - punishing heat in Canada and Siberia, flooding in Western Europe, drought and wildfires in the U.S. Our planet is violently reacting to climate change because of the burning of fossil fuels by us. In a moment, we'll hear from a climate scientist about how he thinks climate chaos could play out in the future.

Right now, the devastation from flooding in central China following record-setting rains last week. About a year's worth of rain fell in just three days in one city of 12 million residents, the city of Zhengzhou. So far, at least 58 people have died. NPR's Emily Feng traveled to the flood zone and brings us this report.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: Zhengzhou restaurant owner Wang Ana noticed a downpour Tuesday evening. By nightfall, the water outside her restaurant had risen alarmingly quickly.

WANG ANA: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: "I saw the rain was not stopping, so I headed out," she says. "But the water was up to my chin," she gestures. Wang had her young son with her. So in desperation, she grabbed a broom handle.

WANG: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: She says she held the handle horizontally between the two of them so they wouldn't be swept away by the current. About 20 other people were trying to get home, too, so they all linked arms, keeping each other steady.

Others were not so lucky. Just a few hundred feet away from Wang's restaurant is a long traffic tunnel. Floodwater gushed in Tuesday, drowning at least two drivers. NPR visited the tunnel three days later as it was being pumped clear. Mud-covered vehicles dredged from the tunnel lay outside. People across China heard the news and rushed to help.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking Chinese).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: Last Friday, I found about 100 residents carrying bedding and food into a community center. Directing them is Wu Chao, a short, energetic businessman. He drove from 300 miles away to help.

WU CHAO: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: He says he was carrying rescue equipment, so he drove throughout the night to get to Fuwai Hospital in Zhengzhou, which was marooned at the time. Wu is part of a private rescue organization called the Dawn Emergency Rescue Team, one of several that mobilized to deliver supplies and get people out of submerged homes.

WU: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: In order to reach trapped residents, some of his team members jumped into the floodwaters without a second thought, he says. He's visibly moved by the resilience he's seen in the Chinese people, he says. And the work is not over yet because the rainstorm that flooded Zhengzhou then moved north and flooded the city of Xinxiang, home to about 6 million people.

(SOUNDBITE OF WATER SPLASHING)

FENG: Water there was still hip height when NPR visited over the weekend. It left thousands of elderly residents and children stuck in high-rises and neighboring villages. So people improvised. They're giving each other lifts in bulldozers, scooping up sometimes entire families stranded by water.

(SOUNDBITE OF BULLDOZER)

FENG: We hitch a ride on one bulldozer with Hu Songsong. She's maniacally energetic, trying to save her remaining belongings by keeping them afloat in a big red washbasin.

HU SONGSONG: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: She says the water began creeping into her first-floor home at around 2 a.m. Friday. She couldn't keep the water out. So terrified, she began moving possessions to higher ground. Another volunteer uses a giant inflatable unicorn to pull me and my producer, Amy Cheng, through thigh-high water.

UNIDENTIFIED VOLUNTEER: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: He says he bought this unicorn at the beach five years ago. And today he had a day off and thought, why not help carry supplies or help people to the hospital on it?

Just outside the flood zone, an exhausted rescuer checks his equipment and men. This is Xiang Nanmin, captain of another private rescue group named Blue Skies. He spent the day before moving some 600 people to higher ground.

XIANG NANMIN: (Speaking Chinese).

FENG: He says he's done rescue work like this for six years, but he's never seen a flood as big as this one, that's damaged so much and affected so many. Scientists say rains like this haven't fallen on Henan province in 60 years. But climate change might make such rains more common, and cities like Zhengzhou and Xinxiang might need to brace for more floods.

Emily Feng, NPR News, Henan province, China.

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