Desperate passengers tried to flee as floodwaters rushed through a busy underground station in China on Tuesday, while others were swept helplessly across the platform.
In one train carriage, water seeped in and rose from ankle to waist and then to neck level. Panicked commuters reached up to breathe while others lifted smaller people into the shrinking air holes.
In terrifying videos shared on social media, some commuters can be seen standing on chairs and holding onto the ceiling as the floodwaters spread upwards. One man tries to break a window before realizing there is more water outside the car.
Some filmed the unfolding tragedy, while others called relatives or posted cries for help.” I can’t talk anymore,” wrote one woman on the social network Twitter.” If help doesn’t arrive in 20 minutes, hundreds of us will lose our lives.”
“We were all standing on our seats and the water was up to our knees,” a woman who identified herself as Ms. Li told Elephant News.
“Some of the smaller passengers were up to their necks in water,” she said, adding that as time passed, the air supply began to dwindle.
Within an hour, the train carriage was plunged into darkness, and oxygen levels continued to drop.” One man told Reuters, “I was really scared, but what scared me the most was not the water, but the dwindling air supply.
After hours of fear and uncertainty, rescuers managed to get through the roof of the car and get people out. We hit the glass [of the roof]. Then suddenly there was air,” a woman, who did not want to be named, told state broadcaster CCTV.
Hundreds of people were eventually rescued from flooded underground tunnels in Zhengzhou, a city of 12 million people on the banks of the Yellow River in central Henan province.
However, at least 12 people are known to have died and five injured in the disaster, which occurred after the region received more rainfall in three days than usual in a year.
This is the rainy season in China and floods occur every year. However, Chinese scientists say global warming is making the situation more dangerous and warn that extreme weather events could become more frequent in the future.
In Henan province, at least 25 people have died and more than 200,000 have been evacuated. Major roads have become rivers, with cars and debris washed away by the fast-flowing water.
Shocking reports of the underground tragedy and massive flooding continue to surface across the province, with eyewitnesses describing scenes of fear and chaos.
“It didn’t start with a lot of water and then it was like it came up all at once,” a woman who was inside a flooded underground told media outlet Pear Video.
“In about 30 minutes,” she said, “the water was up to my shoulders. It was very difficult to breathe. Many people fainted.
The woman, who did not want to be named, said she had been trapped for more than four hours and was crying when she was finally rescued.
“There was a lot of water on the platform and the water was coming out of the cracks in the underground doors,” another passenger told Nine Pie News.
“I was very tall,” he said, “but after about five minutes the water was up to my chest.” The taller man helped the shorter man and child into the seat. He was holding someone else’s child.”
In a post on Twitter, a woman described the panic in the carriage. “Many people started having breathing problems,” she wrote. I heard a passenger nearby on the phone telling her family her account details and thought I should do the same.”
“Water was seeping through the cracks in the doors, more and more water, and all of us who could stand were standing on our seats in the underground,” another message said.
Dramatic pictures of the rescue at the scene were also shared. Rescue workers used long ropes to pull people swept away by the raging water to safety.
“I contacted all my family and luckily everyone is safe. There was a lot of damage around us. I see floods everywhere, cars and water everywhere,” he said.
Rescue efforts continue across the province as more rain is forecast for the rest of the week.