A severe rainstorm pounded Beijing last weekend, flooding roads and low-lying buildings, knocking out power in several neighborhoods and killing 37 people. More than 500 flights were cancelled or delayed at the Beijing airport, stranding tens of thousands after the heaviest rain in 61 years fell on the China capital. But the storm-induced paralysis was a reminder that for all its spectacular development, especially after Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics four years ago, the Chinese capital still suffers from potentially debilitating infrastructure weaknesses. The incident has prompted public anger and led to question on how a city lauded for its rapid modernization could fail so tragically in the face of bad weather …
Beijing is usually a dry city, better known for its sandstorms than its rainstorms. But during summer it can experience flash flooding when heavy precipitation overwhelms sewers and storm drains. Each year generally sees some flash flooding, but this was the worst in recent memory. Urban areas of Beijing were hit with an average of nearly nine inches of rain over 16 hours on Saturday. The deluge, which caused more than 31 road cave-ins, led to more than 10 billion yuan (US$1.6 billion) in economic losses. Even more shocking, at least 37 people died in the downpour. Of those, 25 drowned, six were killed as a result of collapsed structures, five were electrocuted and one was struck by lighting. Nearly 70,000 residents had to be relocated as a result of the rain and flooding.
News of the storm spread rapidly on SINA weibo, the most influential social media in China, where messages pointed questions about how a city that spent billions building facilities to host the Olympics could struggle so badly in dealing with a thunderstorm. While official state-media praised the authorities’ response to the flooding, which they restricted to criticize on the city’s infrastructure weaknesses. One positive impact of this recent storm is that following the rainfall, the high level of air pollution in the city was eliminated. Many local residents noted how the air no longer had its typical polluted smell.
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