Anger in Beijing as record rains kill at least 37By Robert Saiget
BEIJING—Beijing residents expressed fury on Monday after the worst rains to hit the Chinese capital in more than 60 years left at least 37 people dead, with another seven still missing.
By Monday morning, nearly nine million users of China’s popular Sina Weibo microblog had expressed anger over insufficient official warnings, and at the way the city’s outdated drains failed to cope.
“If the drainage system had been good, if the warning system had been put in place in a timely manner, if people had been told to stay home, would so many people have lost their cherished lives?” posted one, named Bijiexiang.
At least 25 people drowned in Saturday’s rains, the heaviest in the city since records began in 1951. Six died in housing collapses, five were electrocuted and one person was struck by lightning.
The rains and flooding caused 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) worth of damage, while nearly 66,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes, state media said, citing the Beijing city government.
“Chinese cities are apparently unpractised in facing disasters such as Saturday’s torrential downpour,” the Global Times daily said in a Monday editorial critical of the authorities’ disaster preparedness.
“If so much chaos can be triggered in Beijing, the capital of the nation, problems in urban infrastructure of many other places can only be worse.”
Pictures showed entire parking lots flooded, while rescue and traffic workers were seen diving underwater to unclog roadside drains as helpless drivers looked on from partially submerged cars.
Many roads in the capital were under up to a meter (three feet) of water, while 500 outbound flights were cancelled and at least 80,000 passengers stranded.
Parts of the Beijing-Guangdong highway, a major arterial route to the south, remained inundated on Monday, the Beijing traffic bureau said.
The rain lasted for about 16 hours on Saturday and up to 46 centimeters (around 18 inches) fell on the outlying mountainous district of Fangshan, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Parts of it were devastated, including the popular Shidu scenic area where up to 10,000 tourists were stranded during the downpour, reports said.
Some state-run media focused on how the rains brought the city of more than 20 million people together, with police and traffic workers joining hands with ordinary citizens to rescue stranded motorists.
According to a Beijing television report, in the worst of the downpours ordinary motorists offered free rides to those who were stranded, including some of the 80,000 travelers stuck at the airport after flight cancellations.
But most web users took a more negative view.
“Beijing has been defeated by a huge rain storm, the city’s infrastructure has failed, there is nothing here to be proud of,” posted one on Sina Weibo, under the name Zhulidemixu.
China’s finance ministry has allocated 120 million yuan in relief funds to help Beijing and neighboring Tianjin city and Hebei province handle the disaster.
In Hebei, three people lost their lives in the downpours and one person was missing, reports said.
Meanwhile, Xinhua reported torrential rains on Friday and Saturday left 17 people missing in the northern province of Shaanxi, while eight people were confirmed dead due to heavy downpours in Sichuan province, in the southwest.
China is routinely ravaged by summertime flooding, which normally wreaks havoc in regions along the central Yangtze river and in the south.