A weekend storm that dumped as much as 16 inches of rain in Beijing, the most since records were first kept 60 years ago, left 37 people dead, including a man who drowned in his car after it was submerged under a bridge.
The July 21 rainstorm caused 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) in flood damage and stranded about 80,000 travelers after their flights were delayed, China Daily newspaper said. Authorities evacuated 56,933 people from the hardest-hit areas, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The storm spurred criticism on China’s microblog services that city drainage systems were ill-equipped to handle the deluge even after infrastructure upgrades and a 4 trillion yuan stimulus package during the 2008 global financial crisis.
“The sewer system belongs to infrastructure, right?” Wang Mudi, a television host in Guangdong, wrote on his microblog with Sina Corp.’s Weibo service. “Then how much money of the 4 trillion yuan flowed to the sewer system?”
The flooding had eased in Beijing by the afternoon today. The downpour in the capital was part of a broader storm across the country that displaced at least 567,000 people and killed 95 since July 20, Xinhua reported.
Vice Premier Hui Liangyu today called for strengthened weather monitoring and timely evacuation of residents, warning that floods may occur at any time in major rivers in a year when climate conditions have been “complicated and changeable.”
An average of almost seven inches of rain fell in Beijing, the most since records were first kept in 1951. The suburb of Fangshan got more than 16 inches, Xinhua said.
Twenty-five people drowned, and 12 died in building collapses or were electrocuted, Xinhua reported, citing the city government. Beijing newspapers published photos of people swimming from stranded vehicles, soldiers rescuing trapped children and cars abandoned on flooded roads.
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to Chinese counterpart President Hu Jintao about Beijing’s flood victims, Xinhua reported, citing the Russian presidential press service.
Criticism surrounding the toll entered even state-run media, with the English-language Global Times newspaper saying the flood’s casualties “exposed the vulnerability of Beijing’s drainage system to flooding, as calls for the local government to revamp the city’s outdated drainage infrastructure was renewed.”
Speculation that the flood could lead to new infrastructure projects may have boosted drainage-related stocks in China today. Pump-maker Zhejiang Leo Co. rose 10 percent to 10.73 yuan at the 3 p.m. close in Shenzhen, its biggest gain since April 25. Ningxia Qinglong Pipes Industry Co. rose 5.6 percent to 7.95 yuan, its biggest gain since May 29. The Shenzhen Composite Index fell 1 percent.
— With assistance by Tian Ying