Chinese Premier vows to punish officials over flood deaths

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, left, wearing a face mask, visits the tunnel of subway line 5 in Zhengzhou city in central China's Henan province.   | Photo Credit: AP

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has vowed to hold officials accountable over mistakes during recent floods. More than than 300 people were killed in floods that wreaked havoc in Henan province in July, including at least 292 in the provincial capital Zhengzhou.

Mr. Li on August 19 visited the tunnel of the Zhengzhou's subway line where passengers recorded harrowing videos of flood waters pouring in and filling cars above head height on July 20. 14 people who were trapped when the city's subway system was inundated lost their lives. City residents, who laid flowers at a station entrance despite police efforts to block off the area, have complained that officials should have closed the subway because of torrential rains.

China regularly suffers seasonal flooding, but this year has been particularly severe with torrential rains reaching from the center of the country as far north as Beijing. The floods came on top of efforts to contain an outbreak of the delta variant of COVID-19 that has particularly affected Henan and the eastern province of Jiangsu.

China's worst floods in recent years were in 1998, when more than 2,000 people were killed and almost 3 million homes were destroyed, mostly along China's mightiest river, the Yangtze.

Direct losses from this summer's flooding are estimated at more than $14 billion.

Mr. Li was once a top official in Henan for six years, during which the province was hit by a major AIDS outbreak, deadly fires and other man-made disasters. He was promoted to higher office in Beijing and had at one time been seen as China's potential future president and party secretary before being eclipsed by Xi Jinping.

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 1:09:39 PM |

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