China

Deadly Beijing floods prompt infrastructure questions

  • 23 July 2012
  • From the section China

Chinese media and internet users have raised questions after the heaviest rainfall to hit Beijing in 60 years left 37 people dead.

Newspapers and netizens asked why drains in the capital could not cope and why more warnings were not given.

The storm struck Beijing on Saturday night, with torrential rain continuing for several hours.

Roads were flooded and thousands stranded at transport hubs by the bad weather.

On Monday many parts of the capital had returned to normal, with clear skies and the airport operating as usual, after hundreds of flights were cancelled at the weekend.

Hilly areas on the edge of the city were hardest hit.

'Unpractised'

Several Chinese newspapers criticised the capital's drainage system for failing to cope with the onslaught, in contrast to the centuries-old ditches around the Forbidden City that kept the national monument relatively dry.

Several million comments were left on weibo platforms - China's equivalent of Twitter - with photos of submerged cars and property being shared online.

A Tencent Weibo user from Shandong asked how, as an Olympic city, Beijing's drainage system could be so vulnerable. On Sina Weibo, a user from Shaanxi urged people to learn how to swim, calling the government "unreliable".

"Wishing you happy-ever-after in the afterlife, let's hope at least it has better drainage," sad a Sina Weibo user from Jiangsu.

Other users blamed "sub-standard" weather forecasting and warning services.

"If we could have received a reminder from the government saying 'there will be a rain storm, please do not go out', could we have avoided some of the tragedies?" a Sina Weibo user in Jilin asked.

Even state-run newspaper Global Times was critical of how officials dealt with the crisis.

"Chinese cities are apparently unpractised in facing disasters such as Saturday's torrential downpour," it said.

"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."

State news agency Xinhua said 460mm (18.1 in) of rain fell in Beijing's Fangshan district, with the capital as a whole averaging 170mm.

Flood and economic losses had been estimated at 10bn yuan ($1.5bn, £960m), Pan Anjun, deputy chief of Beijing flood control headquarters, was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

About 60,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes.

Beijing officials said 37 people had died, 25 of them from drowning and the others from roof collapses, lightning strikes and electrocution. Seven more people remain missing.

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