ZHENGZHOU, July 23 (Xinhua) -- Zhao Jianbiao woke up Tuesday morning to torrential rain outside the window -- expected weather for a professional in meteorology in Gongyi City, central China's Henan Province.
By then, a large part of Henan had soaked in rainwater for days. Weather forecasts had suggested that extremely heavy rainstorms would hit the province, and the worst was yet to come.
As chief of the meteorological bureau of Gongyi, Zhao had to attend a meeting Tuesday morning at the municipal government to review the serious weather situation and discuss disaster prevention.
It began to rain even more severely when the meeting concluded, but Zhao wanted to get back to his office as soon as possible. His colleagues had been working day and night since the previous weekend, keeping people informed of the latest developments of the rainstorms.
The way back to the meteorological bureau could not be more familiar to Zhao, which usually takes 15 minutes by car. But the trip on Tuesday almost took his life.
The water got deeper as the car went further. When he realized that a flood was there, it was too late to reverse, and he could lose control of the vehicle at any moment.
"All of a sudden, the current became so strong that the car was swept into a nearby ditch," recalled Zhao. Close to the ditch was a forest with even lower terrain and stronger currents.
"My car just floated up, stumbled in the water, and was rushed down by the torrent," he said.
Zhao tried his best to maintain cool-headed and carried out self-rescue measures. While the car still had electricity, he opened the sunroof, kicked the door open, climbed on top of the car, and cried out for help.
Two hours later, some villagers nearby spotted him.
With a rope tied around a tree, dozens of villagers relayed to approach Zhao. They moved inch by inch against the current while trying to deliver the other end of the rope to him.
Zhao successfully grasped the rope and was later pulled to safety.
Having been drenched by the downpour for hours, Zhao couldn't help shaking after reaching the ground. A villager took him home and offered hot water, food, and clothes for him to change.
Fortunately, aside from a few scratches, Zhao was fine. After a quick treatment of his wounds, he went back to work.
"I'm deeply grateful for their help. They risked their own lives to save me, and their loving care warmed me," said the middle-aged man.
Zhao was among tens of thousands of people in Henan affected by the rains on Tuesday. The provincial capital, Zhengzhou, which administers Gongyi, registered 201.9 mm of precipitation from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, a record hourly high for the Chinese mainland. The city also broke its own single-day precipitation record.
About 100,000 people were relocated to safe places during the day. Over 500 passengers were rescued in the evening from a flooded subway train, while 12 died.
When Zhao was stuck in the middle of the flood, his family and colleagues tried to contact him. They failed, as the heavy rain had caused power and telecommunication outages in Gongyi.
The news about a missing meteorologist soon started to trend on Sina Weibo, the Twitter-like platform. Netizens rushed to express concern and prayers until the media reported his safe return later that day.
Some people praised his "textbook-style" self-rescue, while others commended his professional ethics.
"Both the weather chief and the villagers are heroes. People like you make me feel safe to live in this country," a comment on Weibo read.