XINXIANG, China The night the rains came, all Yu Ruiping could do was gather at her market stall. The power went out. Her phone went off. And the water just rose.
When the skies cleared, the market was surrounded by high-chested water blocking Yu and her husband for two days with nothing to eat except a few packets of instant noodles.
It was the first water ever seen, Yu said, standing in her family warehouse in a neighborhood of Xinxiang, a city of 6 million people in the heart of central Chinas Henan province.
The flow of rain last week burst dams and collapsed bridges, submerging large parts of Henan into the water. In the provincial capital of Zhengzhou, a rain worth several years fell in just three days. Authorities announced a significant increase in the death toll Thursday to 99 people.
After diving into Zhengzhou, where people drowned in subway trains and their cars, the clouds headed north to Xinxiang. On July 21, heavy rains hit the city overnight, turning roads into rivers and carving the city into islands.
Between their rotten pickled vegetables and their damaged electric pickup truck, Yu estimates their losses could run into the tens of thousands of dollars, a princely sum in a city where the average annual income is about $ 8,000.
Authorities estimate the total economic losses at nearly $ 14 billion, a devastating blow to the agrarian economy provinces.
If the water in the market had dried up the day after the rain, our losses would not have been so great. A week has passed and the water has not spilled, Yu said, while resting her elbow in cases of mustard pickles, she and her husband managed to save.
Her husband, Lu Jinlin, recalled his mother showing a similar rainfall in 1963. Although the rains were not so bad, their earthen houses were easily taken out of the water, he said. There was no rescue team at the time.
This time, the price paid on lost lives was lower because they now live in solid, solid concrete homes.
No deaths have been confirmed in Xinxiang so far, but many surrounding villages remain under water. Recovery work continues. Pumps pump out polluted floodwater as bulldozers transport people across flooded roads, trapping them over water in the mouths of their shovels.
Although rescue efforts have garnered widespread praise, there remain questions about governments’ readiness for the storm and why so many people were caught off guard.
Authorities have carefully controlled flood reporting. Censors quickly deleted some critical reports from the Chinese media as a fierce social media campaign targeted foreign journalists.
One shopkeeper refused to be interviewed with a nervous boast. I dare not, he said.
The waters in the world market of agricultural and aquatic products Yubei, where Yu has its stall, are still up to the knee. The shopkeepers were lucky enough that the stands set up on the water left and wiped their refrigerators and tables. Those who were less fortunate saved those they defeated from their ruined fortunes.A salesman wrapped a packet of glasses in a white plastic bag in the back of a half-submerged pickup truck. A young man then lifted her into a nearby cart carrying what was left of her merchandise. Cigarette butts and pieces of plastic foam swirled around her feet in the dark water that permeated rotten fish.
She estimated her losses at tens of thousands of dollars the second time she faces devastation from a flood, as heavy rains in 2016 also ruined goods.
I was terribly lucky, let me tell you, she said. All our family wealth is submerged in water.
She only gave her last name, Xing, after a man standing next to her discouraged her from speaking further to the media.
Just down the road, Sun Jiayun, 72, hangs rubber gloves from tree branches and pulls his heel to the shaky asphalt. The pages of once pristine notebooks rotate in the afternoon sun as they dry.
No one would want it, the Sun said of its goods. Who pays for these things? Still, she removes the items in the hope that she can give them to friends and family.
A few blocks down the road, Mr. Baos Fried Chicken survived almost unharmed since its slight rise. A cashier there, who would only put her last name, Wang, out of concern for her personal privacy, recalled the days in panic she spent coordinating the rescue of her niece and nephews.
They were alone at home, gathering in the dark as the waters rose, their parents remaining trapped in their shop surrounded by water high around their necks. An anxious Wang traded messages with rescue teams online while coordinating their escalation to safety.
For days, more than a dozen friends and relatives gathered at Wangs’s house, unable to return to their flooded homes. They slept four or five in a crowded but lively bed, she said, and a tremendous relief after the flood panic.
I can not describe how she felt, she said, tears streaming down her face. All right as long as I can see the kids, as long as they are alive.
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