When the flood waters approached, Zhang Erqiang thought he and his family would be safe on the roof of their car.
However, within minutes his vehicle was flipped over by the strong current.
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He grabbed onto his sons, daughter and wife, but the force of the water was simply too strong and his children were swept away by the high water.
After searching for several days and a distance of around 40km from his home, his daughter’s body was finally found. His son’s bodies were recovered on Saturday.
“The image of my children struggling in the water, you can’t imagine how horrible it was,” Yang Xiaorui, the children’s mother, told Al Jazeera.
“I can’t help thinking if someone could have given us a warning to evacuate, just 10 minutes, we could have run away.”
Heavy downpours lashed northern China last week, leaving more than 200 people dead or missing, with media and internet users blaming officials of negligence.
So far, five officials have been suspended for dereliction of duty near the town of Xingtai in Hebei.
Locals have accused the authorities of failing to warn them of the impending deluge and trying to cover up the cause of the disaster.
“If we got an early warning at least we could have moved some valuable things and our children away before the water arrived,” Li Cuifen, a survivor, told Al Jazeera.
More than 500,000 people have been displaced in the hardest-hit provinces of Henan and Hebei, with 125,000 people in urgent need of basic assistance, the Xinhua news agency has said citing the Ministry of Civil Affairs.
While flooding is not uncommon during the summer monsoon season in northern China, rains have been unusually heavy across the country this summer.