Celebrities, influencers court controversy as they rush to flooded Henan

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Henan has recently been battling floods following a period of heavy rainfall. As of Aug 2, a total of 99 people had died in its flooded capital Zhengzhou and surrounding areas, with 12.9 million people from 1,588 towns across the province’s 150 counties impacted by the disaster.

Weihui, a county-level city in Xinxiang, Henan, has been waterlogged since July 25. Although the amount of rainfall in Weihui was not dangerous, the city still flooded thanks to the large volume of water discharged from multiple reservoirs in the north of the province combined with poor drainage in the city.

Wang Tianxing, the deputy mayor of Xinxiang, explained during a press conference held on July 26 that instead of demanding essential items such as food and masks, Weihui currently lacks personnel to distribute the vehicles and supplies needed in each resettlement area.

“We hope professional teams and personnel can participate in the relief efforts so that affected people and frontline rescue teams can receive the things they need. We also hope that people from all sectors of society can act collectively to protect people and help enable the city to resume normal life as soon as possible,” said Wang.

While professional rescue teams across the country rushed to Weihui to help, some frontline rescue personnel told journalists that at many rescue sites, including in Xinxiang and Hebi, an influx of celebrities and internet influencers has hampered their work. Some have even posted unprofessional rescue guidance online.

According to a report by the China Youth Daily, many of the celebrities and influencers have gone to flooded areas seeking to raise their profiles. Some celebrities have been spotted ensuring they are filmed or photographed while handing over supplies and “consoling” those caught up in the disaster. And they have even taken selfies standing or lying in the water.

While some have brought rescue vehicles and boats, they are not qualified to operate them properly and often seem to be simply acting a part.

Members of frontline rescue teams claim to have met internet influencers and celebrity teams in flooded areas across Zhengzhou, Xinxiang, and Weihui.

“We sincerely welcome you to fight with us to bring relief to those caught up in the disaster, but please leave as soon as possible if you are here to seek fame and fortune,” warned a representative of BLUE SKY RESCUE, a national non-profit rescue and relief team based in Beijing.

Many netizens speculated that the organization was alluding to Han Hong, a well-known singer in China, as some news sources indicated that she and a group of celebrities led by her have gone to Henan to help with the rescue efforts. Han and her foundation quickly responded to the online speculation and said that she and her team were not the target of the accusation, as the foundation has sent doctors, rescue personnel, and essential supplies to the affected regions.