The already inundated city of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, saw 200 millimeters of rain between 4 and 5 p.m., the state-run Xinhua news agency said, citing the Henan Weather Agency. Henan, a province twice the size of Austria, has been hit by storms since the weekend during an unusually active rainy season.
Xinhua said 12 people have died and 100,000 people have been moved to safer places.
The flood in Zhengzhou, located on the banks of the Yellow River, forced the city to shut down all metro services.
A dramatic video shared on social media showed waist-deep commuters in murky flood water in a subway train and a subway station turned into a large, bubbling swimming pool.
Henan is a major logistics hub, but rail services have been suspended, many highways have been closed, and flights have been delayed or canceled.
In Ruzhou, a town southwest of Zhengzhou, the streets were turned into torrents, sweeping away cars and other vehicles, images posted on social media showed.
State Grid Zhengzhou Power Supply Co. said a downtown substation was forced to close because of the rain.
Closed historic sites
Some people spent the night at work or checked into hotels.
Wang Guirong, a 56-year-old restaurant manager, said she planned to sleep on the sofa in her restaurant after learning that there was no electricity in her neighborhood.
“I have lived in Zhengzhou all my life and have never seen such a severe thunderstorm as it is today,” Wang said.
A swollen Yi River also threatened to strike Longmen Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with millennial Buddhist statues carved into limestone cliffs near the town of Luoyang.
Like the Longmen Caves, the Shaolin Temple in Dengfeng City, famous in the West for its martial arts, has been temporarily closed.
Also in Dengfeng, an aluminum alloy factory exploded on Tuesday as water from a river entered the factory.
Almost 50 cm of precipitation in Lushan
At least 31 large and medium reservoirs in the province have exceeded their warning levels.
From Saturday to Tuesday, 3,535 weather stations in Henan saw rainfall exceed 50 millimeters, of which 1,614 recorded levels above 100 millimeters and 151 above 250 millimeters.
The highest was in the city of Lushan, which saw 498 millimeters of rain, according to the provincial meteorological office.
The rain is expected to end by Thursday.
China experiences regular flooding during the summer months, but the growth of cities and the conversion of farmland to housing estates have increased the costs of such events.