Officials said most of the deaths occurred in Zhengzhou, the provincial capital, where the subway system was flooded.
According to officials, the death toll from the devastating flood in central China last month has risen to 302, and dozens of people are still missing, three times the number of deaths reported last week.
The local government said at a press conference on Monday that Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province, was the worst hit, with 292 people dead and 47 missing. Three people are still missing in other parts of the province.
Zhengzhou, with a population of 12 million, suffered a year of rain in just three days. Residents found themselves trapped in underground train cars, parking lots and road tunnels by the rapidly rising water levels.
Mayor Hou Hong told reporters that 39 bodies have been found from underground parking lots and other basements. Approximately 14 people died on Line 5 of the city’s underground train network. Images and videos shared on social media showed people standing in neck-deep water when the carriage was submerged.
Starting from July 17, Zhengzhou’s rainfall in three days is about 617.1 mm (24.3 inches), which is almost equivalent to the city’s annual average rainfall of 640.8 mm (25.2 inches).
Experts say that due to climate change, extreme weather events, including severe floods and droughts, will become more and more common.
According to the state news agency Xinhua, on Monday, the State Council-the Cabinet of Ministers-announced that an investigation team would check the flood treatment and propose measures to strengthen disaster prevention.
City and provincial officials faced calls for accountability. The wife of one of the subway victims told local media that she would sue the subway operator for negligence.
The news of the death toll angered Chinese social media users, who demanded better disaster management agreements and criticized the government’s response.
“Can we take a good look at Zhengzhou’s drainage system?” a resident wrote on Weibo.
“We are digging and repairing roads every day… Change the leader, start all over again, the money is spent on the surface!”
But criticism of the government’s handling of the disaster also sparked hostility.
Last week, the authorities blocked a large-scale flower offering on the still-closed Zhengzhou subway system, and foreign journalists reporting on the flood were harassed online and on the ground.
The Foreign Correspondents Club of China stated that it was “very concerned” about the anger of the international media reporting the disaster, and pointed to incidents involving reporters working for the BBC, Deutsche Welle, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, and AFP.
Al Jazeera’s English team was also tracked and filmed while reporting outside the flooded subway system.
The United States expressed its “deep concern” over the harassment and intimidation of foreign journalists covering the disaster.