Flash Floods Swamp Chinese Capital, Killing 37

The storm-induced paralysis was a reminder that for all its development, the Chinese capital still suffers from potentially debilitating infrastructure weaknesses

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Li Wen / Xinhua / ZUMA PRESS

Soldiers help students evacuate from a flooded military-training site in the Fangshan district of Beijing on July 22, 2012

Updated: July 22, 2012 at 11:20 a.m. EST

A severe rainstorm pounded Beijing on Saturday, flooding roads and low-lying buildings, knocking out power in several neighborhoods and killing 37 people, according to state-media reports. More than 500 flights were canceled or delayed at the Beijing airport, stranding tens of thousands after the heaviest rain in 61 years fell on the Chinese capital. By Sunday the waters had largely subsided, the rainfall having scoured the city streets and temporarily clearing out Beijing’s notorious air pollution. But the storm-induced paralysis was a reminder that for all its development, the Chinese capital still suffers from potentially debilitating infrastructure weaknesses.

The rain began to fall heavily shortly after noon and continued through the evening. Beijing is usually a dry city, better known for its sandstorms than its rainstorms. But in the summer, it can experience flash floods when heavy precipitation overwhelms sewers and storm drains. Each year generally sees some flooding, but this was the worst in recent memory. Weeks of unusually high rainfall meant that the city’s canals and reservoirs were ill-prepared to handle a sudden and sustained downpour.

The worst deluge was reported in the southwestern Fangshan district. While aiding in the rescue of five villagers who had been washed away, Li Fanghong, the head of a police substation, was killed when he touched a submerged power line. In the southeastern Tongzhou district, two people were killed when wind and rain caused roofs to collapse, and another person was killed by lightning, the state-run Xinhua news service reported. At the Guangqumen bridge, volunteers helped emergency workers tow a car out of water more than 3 m deep. The driver, a man in his mid-30s, was pulled from the vehicle but was already dead, according to Beijing News, a local daily. The death toll stood at 10 for most of Sunday until the Beijing government announced in the evening that the death toll had climbed to 37, including 25 drownings, six people killed in collapsed structures, five electrocuted by downed power lines and one person who was hit by lightning.

The flash floods come almost exactly four years after Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics, which displayed the Chinese capital’s ability to undertake vast and complex construction projects such as the Bird’s Nest stadium, the Water Cube swimming arena, the new international airport and a huge expansion of the city’s subway system. The success of the 2008 Games even led some people in China to joke that given London’s difficulties in preparing for the event, Beijing should also host this year’s Summer Olympics.

Official media praised the response to the flooding. “In the rainy night, the 100,000 cadres who helped with emergency measures, rescues and drainage efforts, and the countless volunteers and communications people embodied the most beautiful spirit,” wrote the Oriental Outlook, a Xinhua-run newsweekly. But the weekend’s emergency reminded some people that for all its spectacular development, the Chinese capital still has significant shortcomings. One widely reposted message on Sunday read: “The development level and happiness index of a place shouldn’t be measured by the height of its skyscrapers, but by the quality of its sewers.”

26 comments
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mylenefullerton
mylenefullerton

this is what happen when this china country full of selfishness. sooner or later  theres more calamaties coming in china  more KARMA the BIG EYES watching each one of us.

mylenefullerton
mylenefullerton

this is what happen when china country  is  greedy sooner or later theres more calamaties coming in china more KARMA.

zwj123456
zwj123456

a big rain, so big rain, i was

splashed

wet

BraySusan
BraySusan

my friend's mother made $263164 so far just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more here N u t t y R i c h dot cOm

 

Lunjie Zeng
Lunjie Zeng

As a person who has lived in Beijing for more than two years, I agree that the underground infrastructure of the city really needs to be improved, even though Beijing is the city with the best infrastructure in mainland China.

zwj123456
zwj123456

 no, the best is in shanghai

zwj123456
zwj123456

 no, the best is in Shanghai

zwj123456
zwj123456

 no, the best is in Shanghai

peterrawlins
peterrawlins

What does "State controlled" Xinhua mean ? As in the state controlled BBC ?

Try reading the news from the English language China Daily  which is written in English for the benefit of Time and other westerners.

Time Magazine persists in refering to China as if it is soviet Russia.

China is capitalism unleashed (Cadillac ,David Beckam,Macdonalds, Disney, KFC, Apple, Basket ball stars, Harry Potter, Rolex  and American computers all over the high  streets)

Time magazine has lost its way

Shuami
Shuami

Not just Time. Try CNN, WSJ, WP, Atlantic, oh, well, almost all of the main stream media. They are so last-year and appeared to be clinging to the cold-war mentalities. The thing is, don't these journalists base in China? How's their daily encounter different from people like you?

omegafrontier
omegafrontier

 One day, through the progress of science, we will be able to harness these energy of nature and nature disasters will be a thing of the past.  We should think more of how to prevent nature disasters.

f_galton
f_galton

That's so sad to hear about Li Fanghong. He was a good cop.

Katie
Katie

Still better than Katrina/New Orleans  any day.

Katie
Katie

Still better than Katrina/New Orleans  any day.By the way My friend gets more than $2500/Month  working few hours on his personal computer , Read his Article =>  dai1ynews.blogspot.com

nat4dai
nat4dai

Still better than Katrina/New Orleans  any day.

Casey Douglas
Casey Douglas

And Katrina was nothing compared to the two tsunamis that we've had in recent years that killed nearly 300,000 people... How American of you to not consider those people and in your small mind  and have the audacity to think that Katrina is the worst disaster that has ever happened... Maybe you should keep your mouth shut if you don't have anything nice to say.. It may only be 37 people but they had families.. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed! How many Chinese people do you think have insurance compared to people in New Orleans... Have a heart  .

Tim McCarthy
Tim McCarthy

I think you may have misinterpreted this comment: perhaps nat4dai was saying that Beijing's disaster response, though it has been criticized, is better than the USA's response to Katrina. Of course, the storms aren't remotely comparable - I'm in Beijing, and things already seem to be running smoothly again - but I agree nontheless, because America's "every man for himself" mentality leads us Americans to blame and abandon disaster victims.

Marisa70394
Marisa70394

I've been to Beijing twice.  The place smells like an open sewer even on the best days.  I wonder how bad it smells now.....It seems Beijing can't escape its stench.  Either its crazy bad air pollution or nauseating sewer smells....

happydayfortennis
happydayfortennis

After skimming through your anti-China comments, it seems that you have a major problem with China on a personal level. Yes, the Chinese government is oppressive and corrupt, but it's not nearly as evil as you think it is. The people there aren't living in hell; police aren't arresting every innocent person they see.

Look at the American government and tell me that it's free from corruption and lies. Look at America's infrastructure and tell me our country is run perfectly. Look at New York and tell me that this place is the most beautiful, clean city on earth. Look at the prisons filled with people caught with marijuana, yet George Zimmerman almost got away with murder. 

I love America and have lived here all my life, but it seems that you are the one spreading propaganda that "living in China must be one of the worst things that could ever happen to anybody," as if America's so much better.

GeorgianaLai
GeorgianaLai

Really? Myexperience in Beijing was quite good in May this year.

barnardshaun
barnardshaun

Really?try to come to beijing in fall,may be it will change your opinion

ceh1
ceh1

That may be your opinion, but sounds like hyperbole.  I've been to Beijing a couple dozen times and while it can smell bad in spots, it hardly smells like an "open sewer even on the best days."  As a point of comparison, NYC in the summertime, with its bags of trash laid out in the streets (often strewn open by homeless looking for cans and bottles), is far worse.

Katie
Katie

Still better than Katrina/New Orleans  any day.

Panelo
Panelo

Completely agree. When you visit America, you see a few super duper rich people on TV and hoardes of tired, poor people. And then the occasional theater massacre and rich gun executives.