Beijing Updates Rainstorm Death Toll to 77 After Skepticism

Beijing’s municipal government increased its death tally from record rainstorms last weekend to 77, after China’s microbloggers expressed skepticism about an earlier official total of 37.

More bodies were found as rescue workers combed through rain-triggered mudslide debris, Xinhua News Agency said yesterday, citing Pan Anjun, a spokesman for Beijing’s flood control headquarters. There probably won’t be a further sharp increase in the toll because the search for the missing is almost over, the official news service said.

Local authorities hadn’t updated the tally since their initial estimate on July 22, and the slowness “left the general public enraged and perplexed,” Xinhua said earlier yesterday in a commentary questioning the city’s information transparency. The July 21 storm dumped as much as 16 inches of rain on Beijing, the most in six decades, prompting more than 500 million yuan ($78 million) of insurance claims for vehicle and property damage, according to Xinhua.

Chinese cities including Shanghai, Wuhan and Guangzhou are improving their drainage systems to handle rain as officials seek to allay concerns prompted by the Beijing flooding, the English-language China Daily reported today.

Underground Tunnel

Shanghai plans to spend 10.4 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) improving drainage systems before 2015, the newspaper reported, citing Ma Yuandong, an official with the Shanghai Drainage Administration. The southern city of Guangzhou plans to spend as much as 8 billion yuan building an underground tunnel stretching more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) to improve water drainage, the newspaper said.

Beijing announced in July of last year that it would invest 2.1 billion yuan to update the city’s drainage system by 2015, according to the 21st Century Business Herald.

Of the 77 victims in Beijing, 66 have been identified, including five people who died while carrying out rescue work, Xinhua said, citing Pan. The remaining 61 identified bodies include 46 drownings, five electrocutions and deaths by housing collapse, falling objects, mudslides, “traumatic shock” and lightning strike, the news agency said.

Sales of emergency hammers surged on China’s e-commerce sites after reports that a man among the rainstorm victims drowned when he was trapped in his car and couldn’t escape the floodwaters.

The top 10 sellers of the hammers on Taobao.com, China’s biggest e-commerce website, were all out of stock yesterday, they said. Buyers were told they would be able to receive their orders in about two days.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zhang Dingmin in Beijing at dzhang14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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