"I may not be able to get out," Pure Li messaged a friend Tuesday as the subway car she was trapped in flooded in Zhengzhou, a city in central China. As the situation deteriorated, she updated her message. "Screwed," she typed. Li, who was trapped with more than 500 other commuters, at least 12 of whom were killed, described her ordeal to the Wall Street Journal. A 26-year-old engineer, Li was headed home during the afternoon rush hour, during the downpour. Water already was collecting in a train yard, the subway company says, before breaking through a wall and into a tunnel. About 5:45pm, Li's car stopped between stations, started to back up and stopped again as sparks rose from the track. Water began to come into her car, which then tilted toward one side. Minutes later, the conductor told passengers to try to get out through the front, by jumping over the flowing water to reach a tunnel walkway.
That worked until the flow got heavier, making the route too dangerous. A few passengers tried to get out by going through a door and walking along pipes while holding onto a cable. One of them slipped and was swept away. The water inside cars near the rear had water to the ceiling by 7pm, and it reached Li's shoulders in her car. The ventilation system shut down. People called police and relatives. "Go see my mom for me sometimes," Li messaged her friend. Passengers eventually broke a window with a fire extinguisher and got out that way, but they could see the water level was falling, and Li stayed in the subway car. Rescue crews reached the car around 8:30pm and in another hour had the doors open, per the Journal. Li moved along the walkway and reached Zhengzhou's flooded streets, passing people looking for loved ones. She's still not sure how she was spared. "I don’t know if someone did something to stop the water from rising further, or God had mercy," Li said. (Read more flooding stories.)