Updated: July 27, 2021 06:57 AM GMT
Rescuers evacuate residents in a flooded area in Weihui, Xinxiang city, in China's central Henan province on July 26. (Photo: AFP)
After record rainfall in central China left dozens dead and forced more than one million people to relocate, Pope Francis prayed for all those affected by the disaster.
After praying the Angelus with visitors in St. Peter's Square on July 25, the pope commented on the torrential rains that triggered flash floods in the city of Zhengzhou and in Henan province.
"I pray for the victims and their families and express my closeness and solidarity with all those who are suffering due to this calamity," he said.
China's provincial government updated its estimated death toll on July 25 to 63 people, with five people still missing. Almost 9,000 homes had collapsed and more than 1.1 million people had been relocated after record rains started falling on July 20.
While the rains have stopped, some neighborhoods were still flooded and others were cut off from roads, requiring aid and supplies to be brought in by helicopter. Emergency workers were trying to close breaches along the river and gaps in the flood dikes while residents continued to clear away mud and debris, according to the Associated Press.
In Henan province, authorities are gradually clearing and reopening roads blocked with vehicles and debris.
Torrential downpours dumped a year's rain in just three days on the hardest-hit city of Zhengzhou
Millions have been affected by the floods, with some trapped without fresh food or water for days and others lifted to safety in excavator buckets.
Henan emergency response official Li Changxun warned that the province would need to undertake large-scale cleaning and disinfecting to "ensure the disaster is not followed by an epidemic."
Photos published by state media and government social media accounts showed rescue workers continuing to shovel mud and remove uprooted trees across the province.
Torrential downpours dumped a year's rain in just three days on the hardest-hit city of Zhengzhou, where at least a dozen people died inside a subway train during rush hour after floodwater trapped passengers in their carriages.
China has suffered an annual flood season for millennia, but the record rainfall in Henan has prompted questions about how China's cities could be better prepared for freak weather events, which experts say are happening with increased frequency and intensity due to climate change.
Henan province is striated by rivers, dams and reservoirs, many constructed decades ago to manage the flow of floodwater and irrigate the agricultural region, but rapid urban sprawl has strained existing drainage systems.