Beijing authorities still dealing with effects of flooding

Fri, Jul 27, 2012, 01:00

CITY AUTHORITIES in Beijing continue to deal with the repercussions from last weekend’s flooding in the Chinese capital, as residents worked out their own death tolls from the deluge amid scepticism about official figures.

Further heavy rain during the week did not lead to further flooding in normally dry Beijing, but the streets were deserted as people stayed home, fearful of a repeat of Saturday’s rains.

The rains were the worst in six decades and officially claimed 37 lives, possibly rising to 61, but Beijingers believe the floods killed hundreds of people.

While billions have been spent upgrading the capital above ground, including multi-billion-euro Olympic buildings four years ago and hundreds of skyscrapers, there is growing anger at the lack of spending on drainage infrastructure.

Fresh TV footage showed a river of brown water churning through parts of the city with enough force to carry cars in its wake.

Speculation on Weibo, the Chinese version of the banned Twitter, has prompted a firm response from authorities, which is swift to clamp down on potentially destablising rumour-mongering online.

“From today onward, we will severely strike at those using the internet to . . . create and transmit political rumours and attack the party, state leaders and the current system,” city police chief Fu Zhenghua told the Beijing Times.

Those who died were killed by collapsing houses, by electrocution, and one person was killed when struck by lightning, the Beijing municipal government said on its Sina Weibo account. More than 1.9 million residents have been affected.

The rains completely overwhelmed the city’s drainage systems, much of which date from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), flooding underpasses and causing flash floods in many parts of the city, including Fangshan in the outskirts.

“Fangshan has suffered major losses, and the numbers are still in the process of being compiled,” district head Qi Hong told the Xinhua news agency.

In Fangshan, on the city outskirts, 170,000 head of livestock were killed and 66,000 homes were damaged.

The municipal government set up a committee to deal with the aftermath of the flooding. Li Shixiang, head of the committee, said updated information about the missing and dead would be released “in due time”, the Beijing News reported.

One victim, Ding Zhjian, died when his SUV was submerged under Guangqumen Bridge in the city’s downtown Dongcheng district, and his funeral was held on Wednesday.

He was trapped in four-metre-deep water under the bridge on Saturday, and his death has attracted much attention as it happened on the Second Ring Road. His wife was critical of the slow emergency response, the Global Times reported.

Beijing’s former mayor Guo Jinlong remains on track to be promoted to China’s powerful decision-making body, the 25-member Politburo, despite public questioning of the city government’s handling of floods.

Mr Guo resigned as mayor to take up a post as Communist Party secretary.

Wang Anshun, a Beijing city official since 2007, was appointed acting mayor, the Xinhua news agency reported.