Torrents of murky brown water gushed past the train window, flowing fast through the subway tunnel. Inside, passengers stood on top of seats, clutching their phones overhead as the muddy tide rose past their chests. Some gasped for air. Others sent desperate last messages to family members, telling them their bank card passcodes and saying goodbye.

“The water outside has already come this high,” one frightened woman said, reaching out to the subway car door in a video that spread quickly online. “My phone is almost dead. I don’t know if this is my last WeChat message.”

The woman, one of some 500 people trapped on a subway amid catastrophic flooding Tuesday night in Zhengzhou, in China’s Henan province, reportedly survived. A dozen people did not. By midday Thursday, the death toll had climbed to 33 and eight people were reported missing. More than 3 million people had been affected by the rain, including 376,000 who were relocated to shelters.


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The scenes of desperation and devastation in Zhengzhou added to a portfolio of disasters this year that have raised the specter of irreversible climate change as never before and offered glimpses of what it means to live on a warming planet where human survival grows more fraught.

Extreme weather this summer has flattened rural communities in Germany with floodwaters, triggered deadly mudslides in India and sparked heat waves and fires that can be seen from space in the Western United States and Canada. Floods have also wrought damage in parts of New Zealand, Nigeria and Iran.

Scientists have been warning for years that rising temperatures will make dry conditions for wildfires more common in some parts of the world and, in other places, trap more moisture in the atmosphere, leading to heavier rainfall during storms. READ MORE

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