A State Council executive meeting has reviewed and approved a report on an investigation into the disaster caused by torrential rains in Zhengzhou, capital of central China’s Henan province, in July 2021, according to the Ministry of Emergency Management.
The torrential rains struck Zhengzhou on July 20, 2021, causing waterlogging in urban areas, river flooding, mountain torrents and landslides, which resulted in heavy casualties and property losses, Xinhua news agency reported.
The investigation group of the State Council identified the event as an “extraordinarily serious natural disaster.”
The municipal committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the government of Zhengzhou, as well as relevant districts, counties, departments and units, did not have a strong sense of risk, nor did they have sufficient understanding and preparation for this disaster, the probe revealed.
They also acted poorly in organising disaster prevention and dealing with emergencies, according to the outcomes of the probe.
The mentioned authorities are deemed guilty of negligence and dereliction of duty, especially considering the casualties in the subway and the tunnel that were not supposed to take place, according to the probe.
Torrential rains hit the province from July 17 to 23, 2021, and affected over 14.79 million people in 150 county-level areas. A total of 398 people died or went missing due to the disaster and 95.5 per cent of them were from Zhengzhou.
Party chiefs and senior officials of Zhengzhou and relevant districts and counties must shoulder leadership responsibility for the event, the probe said, adding that other relevant officials and those in charge of relevant departments and units must shoulder leadership responsibility or direct responsibility for the event.
The disaster caused direct economic losses of 120.06 billion yuan (about $18.91 billion) in the province, with 34.1 per cent of the total reported in the capital city of Zhengzhou.
Although the disaster was triggered by extreme weather, many problems and deficiencies were exposed, the probe noted.
To identify the problems, sum up the experience and learn lessons from the tragedy, upon approval of the CPC Central Committee, the State Council set up an investigation team to look into the disaster in Zhengzhou.
Many problems and shortcomings in the local emergency-management system, including disaster prevention, mitigation and relief, have been exposed and the lessons have been profound, the team said.
The weaknesses also exist to varying degrees in many parts of the country, it noted, urging close attention and solid deeds to rectify them.
The investigation team discovered that the municipal CPC committee and the government of Zhengzhou failed to effectively implement the decisions and arrangements of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, as well as those of the provincial CPC committee and the government of Henan.
They failed to take the primary responsibility in flood prevention and disaster relief, and seriously lacked risk awareness regarding extreme-weather disasters, according to the investigators, who also pointed out problems such as the practices of formalities for formalities’ sake and bureaucratism.
Authorities in Zhengzhou concealed or delayed the reporting of those killed and missing in the disaster. They did not tally and report casualties on a daily basis as required, and have deliberately impeded and withheld reports of up to 139 cases, according to the investigation team.
The investigation team thoroughly probed into events that caused major casualties and aroused public concern, concluding that the tragedies of passengers trapped in the flooded Zhengzhou Metro Line 5 and Jingguang North Road tunnel were liability accidents, while the dam overtopping at the Guojiazui reservoir was ruled a law-breaking event.
Urban drainage infrastructure construction in Zhengzhou seriously lags behind the urban development, according to the investigators, who also pointed out prominent problems, including weak links in the emergency-management system and capacity, as well as the mechanism connecting early warning and response in the city.
The investigation team also put forward measures to improve disaster response, saying that work should be done to enhance the local flood-prevention accountability mechanism, conduct in-depth reform and evaluation of the emergency-response mechanism, and build up the disaster-prevention and reduction capacities of urban areas.
Highlighting the necessity of the probe, the team said that the move could help summarise experiences and lessons, as the country is likely to face greater natural-disaster risks and more extreme weather against the backdrop of global climate change.
Problems and weak links identified in the investigation can be used to guide the country in making targeted improvements, better prepare it for future major disasters and protect people’s lives and property, the team said.