As floodwater crashed through a busy subway station in China on Tuesday, desperate passengers tried to flee while others were swept helplessly off platforms.
In one train carriage, water seeped in and rose from ankle, to waist, to neck-height. Panicked commuters stretched upwards to breathe, while others lifted shorter people into the shrinking air pocket above.
In terrifying videos shared on social media, some passengers can be seen standing on chairs and clinging to the ceiling as the floodwater creeps upwards. One tried to smash a window, before realising that there was even more water outside the carriage.
Some filmed the unfolding tragedy, while others called loved ones or posted pleas for help. “I can’t speak any more,” one woman wrote on the social media site Weibo. “If no rescue comes in 20 minutes, hundreds of us will lose our lives.”
“We were all standing on the seats, and the water was already on our knees,” a woman who gave her name as Ms. Li told Elephant News.
“Some shorter passengers had water up to their necks,” she said, adding that as time went on the air supply began to diminish.
After about an hour, the train carriage was plunged into darkness and the oxygen level waned further. “I was really scared, but the most terrifying thing was not the water, but the diminishing air supply,” one person told Reuters news agency.
After several hours of fear and uncertainty, rescuers were able to gain access through the roof of the carriage and pulled people out. “We knocked on the glass a bit [on the ceiling]. Then suddenly there was air,” an unnamed woman told state broadcaster CCTV.
Hundreds of people were eventually saved from the flooded subway tunnel in Zhengzhou, a city of 12 million people that sits on the banks of the Yellow River in central Henan province.
But at least 12 are known to have died and five were injured in the subway disaster, which came after the region saw more rainfall in three days than it usually would in a year.
This is a rainy time of year in China and floods happen annually. However, Chinese scientists say global warming has made the situation more dangerous and warn that extreme weather could become more frequent in the future. -Reuters