Flooding in Central China Kills 71, Damages Cultural Heritage Sites

Central China Deadly Floods

After over a week of natural disasters, including deadly floods in Western Europe, central China sees catastrophic floods that have claimed at least 71 lives and others are still missing. The Henan province is currently facing enormous infrastructure damages, and 360,000 evacuees with over a million people displaced. As the army mobilizes to prevent further flooding, experts say the record-breaking rain and flooding that continues to batter the region results from climate change.

Why This Matters

Catastrophic flooding is affecting regions around the world:

Not only is this flooding a threat to human lives, but it's also a threat to cultural history. The Henan province is known as the birthplace of traditional Chinese martial arts, and many are concerned that some historical landmarks will never be recovered. These floods are a somber warning that our history and culture, like our infrastructure, are largely at the whim of climate. If the nations of the world don’t take immediate action, even more history could be lost.

United Front

The city of Zhengzhou, which is home to 12 million people, received a year's worth of rain in just three days. Twelve people died after being trapped for hours in a flooded subway tunnel. One woman who was evacuated from a subway tunnel described the terror of her experience on social media.

"We tried to stand on the seats as much as we could, but even then, the water reached our chests in the end," she wrote. "I was really scared, but the most terrifying thing was not the water, but the diminishing air in the carriage -- as many seemed to have trouble breathing."

In the nearby city of Gongyi, four people died as floodwaters overtook the streets, causing building collapses and landslides. The crisis has been captured in photos and videos in horrifying detail. Citizens have taken to social media to seek information about missing relatives and spread the word about what’s happening.

Thousands of soldiers have been deployed to help with rescue and recovery efforts. Several dams have collapsed, and teams have been sent to prevent further breaches. Chinese President Xi Xinping called for leadership and organization in the face of the disaster:

Some reservoirs had their dams burst … causing serious injury, loss of life, and property damageWe have already entered the critical stage of flood control, leaders and cadres from all walks of life must … take the lead in commanding, quickly organize forces for flood protection and disaster rescue.

Meanwhile, cultural heritage sites are facing destruction. The Shaolin Temple Yunnan, a world-famous monastery and martial arts school, has suffered severe water damage, as has the Longmen Grottoes, a UNESCO heritage site. Officials say they've secured the sites despite the damage, but as cities face tens of millions in damages, it’s not certain that these sites will be restored to their former glory.