Firefighter stages daring rescue of woman trapped in submerged car in China floods

A flooded road section following heavy rainfall in Zhengzhou, Henan province, on July 21.
PHOTO: Reuters file

BEIJING — In China's rain-lashed province of Henan, a firefighter inched along a taut rope fixed over a swollen river, his life jacket grazing the fast-moving currents below, to reach a woman in a car that had plunged headlong into the raging, brown torrents.

The woman and a male companion were driving on an already submerged bridge on Tuesday (July 5) when their car was swept into the river. The man then swam to safety, but the woman was too petrified to save herself, local media reported.

The firefighter, on reaching the half-submerged vehicle, attached a harness onto the woman and coaxed her to get onto the rope, which had been rigged on both sides of the river for the rescue, according to footage aired on state television on Wednesday.

Hanging on for her life, she began the perilous crossing — her face to the grey sky and her back to the swirling eddies.

With her feet hooked to the rope and her hands pulling at the line, the woman soon made her way back to other rescuers waiting on one side of the river.

Torrential rains had pounded several cities in Henan, with some accumulating up to 317 millimetres of rainfall in 22 hours as of Wednesday morning, said the China Meteorological Administration.

The central Chinese province had issued 24 storm alerts in under 24 hours as of Wednesday afternoon.

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Regions across China including Henan have seen heavy rainfall since Tuesday, with downpours expected to spread to more provinces in the next two days.

China is prone to summer floods that trigger landslides and swamp farmlands and cities, where rapid development and urbanisation often block off natural drainage systems. Climate change has exacerbated the impact.

In July 2021, hundreds of people died when extreme flooding struck Henan's capital city Zhengzhou, a city of 12 million people, some of whom drowned in a submerged subway line.