Grief-stricken family members and online communities blasted local authorities in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan, China, for failing to prevent water from clogging tunnels and filling subway cars.

As of Thursday, there had been 99 confirmed deaths.

The Henan disaster has spurred widespread criticism of authorities' preparedness, particularly the apparently inaccurate weather forecasts and the puzzling disaster alert system. Many people also questioned the decision to keep the metro running throughout the storm.

After nearly eight months of rain fell on Zhengzhou July 20, authorities declared the rainstorm a "once in 5,000 years" event. However, the natural tragedy was described as "a systemic human disaster" by a Zhengzhou academic on social media.

"The natural disaster was the external trigger, but the human-made disaster was the internal factor," they said. "As such, we must legally investigate high-ranking politicians in Zhengzhou City for the crime of breach of duty."

Concerns had been expressed regarding the subway system's safety (it launched its first line in 2013), the decision to keep it running during peak hours when the rain was at its worst and officials' transparency. Online, comments were mixed, although there was significant criticism of the response.

Some fear that, given the magnitude of the devastation, post-disaster reconstruction will be especially difficult for one of China's most populous provinces. Zhengzhou alone has a population of 12 million people.

Henan province, located in central China between Beijing and Shanghai, boasts many cultural monuments and is a significant industrial and agricultural center. It is crisscrossed by several streams, many of which are connected to the Yellow River, which has a long history of breaking its banks during seasons of heavy rainfall.

Flooding occurs in China on a regular basis during the summer months, but rising urbanization and conversion of farmland, as well as the increasing climate crisis, have worsened the effect of such catastrophes.