Chinese authorities have raised the official death toll in the devastating Henan floods last month to 302, with at least 50 missing.
The announcement more than triples the confirmed number of people killed in the floods, which stood at 99 as of Thursday.
At a press conference on Monday, Henan authorities announced that 292 people were killed in the provincial capital, Zhengzhou, and 47 were missing, state media reported. Another seven died and three are still missing in Xinxiang City, while two died in Pingdingshan and one in Luohe.
Zhengzhou Mayor Hou Hong said 39 people were found dead in underground parking lots and six died in the tunnel through the city, raising the tunnel’s death toll from four.
Unprecedented rainstorms hit central China’s Henan province in late July, overflowing reservoirs, breaking riverbanks and overwhelming public transportation systems and roads in major cities. In Zhengzhou, more than 600mm of rain, equivalent to almost an average year, fell in just three days.
China routinely experiences floods in summer, but the impact of the unprecedented flood was exacerbated by rapid urbanization, agricultural land conversion and the worsening climate crisis, as well as overwhelmed flood mitigation systems.
More than 200mm fell in a two-hour window in one afternoon, flooding the city’s subway system and a tunnel through the city filled with cars. At least 14 died on the subway when about 500 people were trapped in wagons and platforms, with alarming images showing water rising up to people’s necks. While hundreds of cars were trapped in the tunnel, many people were saved by a retired soldier who swam from one car to another to get people out.
According to Chinese authorities, the disaster affected 13 million people, damaged nearly 9,000 homes and caused 53 billion yuan (6 billion pounds) in economic losses.
Questions about official transparency have swirled in the weeks after the disaster, amid some citizens struggling to search or find information about your missing loved ones, online censorship, and severe harassment and threats against foreign journalists who reported that residents had concerns about the response and that there were doubts about the government’s readiness.
Senior government officials were among those who accused the journalists of “defaming China” and spreading lies about the disaster, with particular hostility towards the BBC.
In the wake of the floods, local authorities faced official scrutiny for failing to stop the Zhengzhou subway or close schools, and the central government ordered an investigation and improvements.