Race to evacuate patients as hospitals flooded by rainstorms

Outside the Fuwai Central China Cardiovascular Hospital, the ambulances and rescue vehicles are mostly submerged in floodwater, leaving only their tops visible.

Outside the Fuwai Central China Cardiovascular Hospital, the ambulances and rescue vehicles are mostly submerged in floodwater, leaving only their tops visible.

At the entrance and inside the hospital registration hall, rescuers in yellow life vests use rafts to transport patients who are stuck inside.

"The hospital was completely engulfed by floodwater," said rescuer Chen Lixin. "There was no drinking water, no electricity, no Internet connection, nothing."

Torrential rain has affected about 3 million people in central China's Henan Province, with 33 reported dead and eight still missing as of 4 am Thursday, local authorities said.

A total of 376,000 local residents have been relocated to safe places, said the provincial emergency management department.

Rainwater has damaged more than 215,200 hectares of crops, causing a direct economic loss of about 1.22 billion yuan (US$188.6 million).

The natural disaster has inflicted damage on many hospitals in Henan, with patients and medical staff stuck inside, waiting to be evacuated, including the Fuwai Central China Cardiovascular Hospital in the county of Zhongmu, under the jurisdiction of Zhengzhou, the provincial capital.

Days of rainstorms have caused severe flooding in the hospital. On Thursday morning, rescuers started transporting patients, their family members and medical staff elsewhere. About 5,000 people have been evacuated so far.

"We have 1,075 regular patients and 69 in severe conditions, and the number of family members is about 1,300," said Gao Chuanyu, vice president of the hospital. "Most people will be brought to safety by rafts, but for critically ill patients, we need to use helicopters."

Apart from those scheduled to be discharged, most patients will be transferred to the Henan Provincial People's Hospital for further treatment, Gao added.

Another hospital that has been damaged is the Heyi branch of the First Affiliated Hospital of Zhengzhou University in Zhengzhou. Built on low-lying land, the area was heavily flooded.

Starting on Tuesday evening, a blackout struck the hospital, endangering the lives of about 600 patients suffering from severe medical conditions.

On Wednesday morning, the water had swallowed many cars near the entrance, and medical staff were using rafts to transport supplies to the patients.

Fortunately, rescuers from across the country managed to evacuate people to safety.

One of the rescue teams comes from east China's Jiangsu Province. Consisting of hundreds of firefighters, medical staff, vehicles, rafts and water pumps, the team was tasked with guaranteeing the safety of those in the Fuwai Central China Cardiovascular Hospital on Thursday.

"The flooding has swamped the hospital and the buildings in the vicinity over an area of 400,000 square meters, and has inundated the hospital's first floor," said team vice captain Chen Lixin. "The area within five kilometers has all been swamped."

The hospital had no contact with the outside world and was in urgent need of drinking water, food and rafts, Chen added.

On Thursday, while transporting the patients and medical staff, the rescuers also delivered food to the local area via helicopter.

The electricity supply has now been restored there.

A family member surnamed Liu said he lost contact with his wife during the rainstorms. She is 30 years old and eight months pregnant.

"She has been stuck in the hospital since Monday night, and I was extremely worried," Liu said. "I tried to search for her by car, but I was stopped by the flood."

On Thursday morning, Liu managed to contact his wife with the help of the rescue team.

"I am just relieved that she is fine," Liu said. "The rescuers truly gave us hope."

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