China: Eight officials arrested, 89 disciplined for concealing last year’s flood death toll

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Authorities in China have arrested eight officials and disciplined 89 for allegedly concealing 139 deaths from last year’s Henan flood disaster.

In July 2021, thousands of people were evacuated from Zhengzhou city, the capital of central China’s Henan province, after heavy rains led to large areas of the province being submerged in water.

The rainfall was estimated by weather forecasters to be the worst in at least 1,000 years. In just a few days, the city had recorded a year’s worth of rain. Between 17 July and 23 July, as many as 302 people died and 50 were missing in the province due to the rain.

But a recent investigation into the floods has found that some local officials “deliberately” obstructed and withheld reports of up to 139 cases.

“There was a problem of late reporting and concealment in the reporting of disaster information, and negligence from lower-level party committees, governments and relevant departments,” a report of the investigation, released on Friday, said. The investigation was overseen by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the state council, according to the Global Times.

The investigation tried to find the natural as well as human factors behind the disaster, and tried to find ways to correct officials’ dereliction of duty, which compounded the problem in July.

Wang Yue-tang stands near what used to be his peanut farm before torrential rains submerged the lowland leaving him with no summer harvest near Xubao village in central China’s Henan province in October 2021 (AP)
Wang Yue-tang stands near what used to be his peanut farm before torrential rains submerged the lowland leaving him with no summer harvest near Xubao village in central China’s Henan province in October 2021 (AP)

The nearly 100 officials who were either detained or disciplined included top governing members in Zhengzhou. Xu Liyi, the secretary of the Communist Party Committee in Zhengzhou, and the city’s vice-mayor Wu Fumin were both dismissed, Reuters reported.

Company managers responsible for the construction of Zhengzhou’s infrastructure, including a subway line where more than 25 people drowned, were also among those arrested after the investigation.

At a separate press conference, investigation officials confirmed that the cover-up included 75 cases in Zhengzhou city, 49 in counties, and 15 in townships.

“[Local party and government officials] failed to honestly report the true cause of death and illegally used post-disaster reconstruction grant funds to compensate families for the deaths,” an official said. “Although the disaster was triggered by extreme weather conditions, many problems and shortcomings were exposed.”

He added: “Weaknesses also exist to varying degrees in many parts of the country, [the investigation] noted, calling for careful attention and strong action to rectify them.”

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