China floods: how Henan province was inundated by historic rainfall

By SCMP Graphics Updated July 27, 2021

Henan province has been hit by devastating floods that have killed at least 71 people and affected more than 11 million. Meteorologists have blamed Typhoon In-fa for bringing abnormally intense rain to the region.

Horrific subway scenes

At least 14 people lost their lives on July 20 in Zhengzhou city when their subway train was flooded. The city suspended rail services at 6pm after heavy rain flooded a train yard and burst into the subway tunnel, according to a statement released by the subway company two days after the accident and reported in the Global Times. More than 500 people were trapped in the subway in one of the worst-affected areas of the city of 12.5 million.

Water level inside the carriages

The heaviest rainfall ever recorded in Henan

Rainfall in the central Chinese province reached unprecedented levels, causing floods of an intensity not seen in decades. Henan has many cultural sites and is a major base for both industry and agriculture.

Weather from 3pm on July 19 to 3pm on July 20

Rain from 2pm on July 20 to 2pm on July 21

How the downpours compare

The rainfall intensified after July 17, with Zhengzhou receiving a year’s worth of rain in just three days. On the other side of the world, countries in Europe have also experienced widespread devastation recently after record rainfall. In Germany, 100-150mm of rain fell in 24 hours on July 14/15, killing around 200 people.

A comparision of rainfall in Henan

China is used to summer floods but a combination of weather patterns and climate change linked to human behaviour are thought to have contributed to the excessive rainfall and its longer-than-usual duration in some regions. “We cannot say a single extreme weather event is directly caused by climate change, but over the long term, global warming has led to an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events,” said Song Lianchun, a meteorologist with the National Climate Centre.

Typhoon In-fa

It is the sixth tropical storm and third typhoon in the northwest Pacific region this year. The combined effects of the typhoon's airflow and an area of high pressure in the Pacific generated the heavy rain that caused devastating floods around 1,000km (621 miles) inland in Henan province.

Edited by Helen Leavey and Melissa Zhu
Creative Director Darren Long

Sources: National Meteorological Center, Deutscher Wetterdienst, Hong Kong Observatory, Zoom.Earth

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