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Heaviest rain in Beijing in 61 years; 10 dead

The heaviest rain to hit Beijing in 61 years left at least 10 people dead over the weekend, while more downpours were forecast for northeast and southwest China, state press said on Sunday.

world Updated: Jul 22, 2012 23:13 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times

The heaviest rain in six decades lashed Beijing on Saturday, leaving 10 people dead and thousands stranded outside as traffic came to a gradual halt on flooded streets.

More than 500 flights were cancelled, impacting some 80000 travellers, state media said, adding that at least 50000 citizens had to be relocated from their inundated homes.

According to municipal authorities 100000 people were mobilised for rescue work through Saturday evening as reports started pouring in about one road after the other getting flooded leaving long lines of stranded vehicles.

Till Sunday 2 am, Beijing had seen some 212 mm of rain since Saturday; last time the city had experienced more rain was 61 years ago.

Considered among the more dry Capitals of the world, the city wasn’t ready for this kind of heavy rain.

“Many roads under overpasses were submerged by waters of up to one meter deep, leaving some cars stranded. Many people therefore chose to take subway rather than drive their own cars,” China daily wrote.

“That was by no means car driving. It looked very much like sailing a boat," the newspaper quoted resident Yuan Xin, as saying and adding: “There were waves all around. I was very nervous inside the car and I was wondering now and then what if the car broke down.”

According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, Li Fanghong, a police inspector in suburban Fangshan District, lost his life while trying to rescue villagers who were trapped by the floodwaters. Li was electrocuted by a live wire that had fallen into the water late Saturday afternoon. Li's colleagues told Xinhua that he rescued 50 people in the village of Fenghuangting before being hit by the fatal shock.

Xinhua added that while many cheered acts of kindness and bravery urbanites showed during the storm, others expressed anger against patrolling police who handed out violation tickets to stranded cars that had yet to be reclaimed by their escaped owners.

Expressway operations were also criticised, as workers continued to collect fees at toll gates on the airport expressway, despite vehicles, in long queues, mired in knee-high water.

Xia Xueluan, a Peking University sociologist, said city authorities should take a more "humane" approach when handling such emergencies.

"More flexible measures should be adopted in those cases," Xia told Xinhua.

The urban drainage system received fierce blame, once again, for the flooding, as heavy rains and snow often disrupted traffic in recent years.

First Published: Jul 22, 2012 10:52 IST