MIHE, China — Chen Shuying was sitting at home with her husband and their 3-year-old grandson on Tuesday when water began to surge through the door. Within minutes, it was well above her waist. “The water came so fast,” she said.
They made it to the roof, where they waited for hours for it to recede. Two days later, she still cannot return home, she said, but they were lucky. Three neighbors — a grocery shopkeeper and two of the grocer’s customers — were swept away by the floodwaters and have not been seen since.
The formidable destructive power of the floods that engulfed Henan Province in central China became clearer on Thursday, even as new areas were inundated. Still more rain is in the forecast, following days of torrential downpours, including the strongest on record in the area on Tuesday.
The death toll from the flooding continued to rise, with provincial officials saying that 33 people were killed. At least eight remained missing, the officials said, but those figures appeared to be preliminary at best given that rescuers continued to try to reach flooded areas in outlying districts. The Paper, a newspaper belonging to a state-owned media group, on Thursday posted a list of people reported missing that included 10 names.
In Xinxiang, a city north of Zhengzhou, the provincial capital at the center of the disaster, about 100 people were stranded on the second floor of an elementary school. Many of them were children, according to a post on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform.
They had apparently sought refuge from the rising water, which by Thursday had reached the second floor.
“Urgently need rescue,” a woman wrote in the post on Thursday. “More than half of the trapped people are elders and children, the rain is still going on and the water level is rising strongly! It is reaching the second floor very soon.” The situation could not immediately be verified by The New York Times. Calls to mobile numbers listed on the post were unanswered.
Even by the official count, more than three million people have been affected, with power knocked out in scores of villages and water still flooding broad areas. Across the region, people used social media to spread news and direct emergency rescuers to those in need. Another post from Xinxiang showed a video of flooded streets, with a man pleading for help, saying most of the people trapped in buildings without power near him were older.
On an arduous drive through Henan Province on Thursday, many roads and bridges were flooded or blocked by mudflows. Zhengzhou remained largely cut off: Railroads and highways were still closed, and airline traffic suspended.
A large private and government relief effort has already begun. In Mihe, a town on the Sishui River, a dozen large rubber rafts sat on towing racks behind pickup trucks; they are usually used for white-water rafting.
Police cars, ambulances, emergency rescue vans and other vehicles sat parked on high ground overlooking the flooded river. Two men in military camouflage uniforms used a drone to scan the area.
The downpour had dumped piles of fresh mud on the town, in a flat-bottomed valley with steep slopes of red dirt.
Across the countryside, downed power cables snaked across roads, village streets and alleys, the poles supporting them having been washed out.
In one village near Gongyi, where at least four people were reported to have been killed on Tuesday, Chen Shuailin, 21, said the power had been out since he woke up on Tuesday morning. He worried about charging his phone and preparing food without electricity. “Now it’s cooking by gas,” he said, “and we burn coal.”
In Zhengzhou, subway service remained suspended after flooding that trapped trains in tunnels that filled with water. At least 12 people died in the subway this week, and hundreds had to be evacuated. Near the city’s third ring road, dozens of cars remained piled underwater at the entrance to a tunnel. It was not clear whether those inside had time to escape.
Keith Bradsher reported from Mihe, China, and Steven Lee Myers from Seoul. Albee Zhang, Li You, Liu Yi and Claire Fu contributed research.