Storm kills 37, drainage system overwhelmed
Global Times | 2012-7-23 2:00:03
By Li Qiaoyi and Li Ying
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A man squats outside the ruins of his house in Beixin'an, Shijingshan district Sunday. His home collapsed on Saturday evening around 7 pm during the torrential downpour. No one was injured. Photo: Li Hao/GT
A man squats outside the ruins of his house in Beixin'an, Shijingshan district Sunday. His home collapsed on Saturday evening around 7 pm during the torrential downpour. No one was injured. Photo: Li Hao/GT



Beijing is counting the cost in lives and in cash in the aftermath of the biggest storm to hit the city for decades.

The death toll has reached 37 people, Beijing Municipal Government said via its microblog late Sunday. 

Beijing government said 25 people drowned, six died in housing collapses, one man was hit by lightening, and five died because of electric shocks.

An earlier press release Sunday from Beijing Municipal Flood Control Headquarters said that casualties in the capital's southern Fangshan district may be expected to rise significantly. Initial figures Sunday morning put the number of deaths at 10.

Residents are asking questions over the capital's outdated drainage systems, which floods with annual inevitability, although until this weekend, with not such heavy fatalities.

The deluge affected around 1.9 million people and led to economic losses of roughly 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion), said Pan Anjun, deputy chief of Beijing flood control headquarters, according to Xinhua News Agency.

A total of 65,933 people were evacuated as of 6 pm Sunday, according to Pan, who revealed the rains have led to untold damage to roads, bridges, thousands of houses and buildings and to hundreds of vehicles.

Precipitation across the city averaged 170 millimeters, while the urban area saw an average of 225 millimeters during the 16-hour deluge, the worst for 61 years, said Pan.

Thousands of people in Fangshan district are counting the costs of the flood, with over 20,000 displaced and many more awaiting help from local authorities. Rescue operations were ongoing in the district as of last night.

Fangshan's Hebei township saw the heaviest deluge of rain for 500 years, flood control authorities said.

Zhang Yong, leader of Blue Sky Rescue Team, was involved in rescuing around 150 people from the Beijing-Hong Kong-Macao Expressway trapped under a railway bridge.

"The water was almost five meters deep, submerging over 100 cars in over 1,000 square meters of water. We rescued the trapped people and brought them to safety," said Zhang.

The expressway was still at a standstill Sunday afternoon, as the drainage system could not cope. 

Beijing's decades' old drainage system is not suitable for current requirements, especially as heavy rain is more common now, said experts Sunday. 

"The capital's drainage network is already outdated, although a lot of repair work has been done to maintain it," said Zhang Junfeng, founder of the non-government water resource watchdog Happy Water Journeys. 

"The capital's drainage system could be among the most advanced across the country, but it isn't on a par with some developed countries, where the systems are designed according to a much higher standard," said Dai Shenzhi, a professor at the College of Architecture and Urban Planning at Tongji University in Shanghai.

Overhauling the entire network may be unfeasible, as it will take time and an enormous injection of cash.

More urban development increases the risk of flooding, as there is less natural vegetation to absorb rain. It would be much more feasible to allocate areas of wetland to be used as overspills to guard against floods, Dai said.

Echoing Dai's views, Zhang pointed out however that "the nation's obsession with rapid development has many local governments paying little attention to building wetlands, as it won't result in economic benefits."

Dong Liming, a professor in the College of Urban and Environmental Sciences at Peking University, called for local government to be more transparent in revealing the details of the loss of life and in damages to infrastructure and the expected monetary losses. Government should also give residents advice on precautions in case of extreme weather, he said. 

"What we know now is a rough picture. If the exact information could be provided to the public in a timely fashion, there wouldn't be so much concern," Dong said.

This may not be the end of the summer rains, said Guo Jinlan of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau.

"The rain may visit Beijing again around Wednesday, but it won't be so heavy and destructive like that of yesterday," she said.
 
Related reports:

37 dead, 30,000 evacuated in Beijing downpour
Beijing is counting the cost in lives and in cash in the aftermath of the biggest storm to hit the city for decades.

Beijing downpour exposes holes in modernization drive
The heaviest downpour that hit Beijing in six decades flooded the city's main roads and killed 37 people over the weekend.

Rainstorm kills 37 in Beijing
The heaviest rainstorms in 61 years hit the capital over the weekend, resulting in 37 deaths recorded as of 5 pm Sunday, authorities have announced.

Beijingers turn to Weibo to beat floods
People in Beijing turned to social network sites to help those left stranded by the heaviest rainstorm in six decades over the weekend by offering free rides, accommodation and meals.

 

 
 

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