Heavy rain in Beijing – evacuation of more than 30,000 people

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BEIJING: The heaviest rain to hit Beijing in 61 years left at least 10 people dead over the weekend, while more downpours were forecast for northeast and southwest China, according to state press.

Torrential rain pounded the capital all day Saturday, leading to the evacuation of more than 30,000 people, mostly from Beijing’s outlying mountainous districts, the Xinhua news agency said.

More than 500 flights were cancelled at Beijing’s Capital International Airport, the Beijing News said.

However, the subway system was largely unaffected, aside from being swamped with people desperate to get home and unable to use cars, buses or taxis.The city received about 170mm of rain on average, though a township in Fangshan District to Beijing’s west was hit by 460mm (18.1 inches), Xinhua said.

The Beijing city government said on its website (www.beijing.gov.cn) it was working to get the metropolis back on its feet, but reminded people to prepare for further bad weather.

“The weather forecasters say that from late July to early September this city is prone to flooding, and there could be further large-scale storms or extreme weather,” it said.

A policeman who was electrocuted by a fallen power line during a rescue operation was among the fatalities, while others were killed in traffic accidents and roof collapses, it said.

One woman died after her car was engulfed with water in an underpass on Beijing’s central second ring road that was flooded with up to three metres of water.

The death toll could rise with media reports Sunday saying numerous people, including rescue workers, were missing.

Meanwhile three bodies were recovered Sunday in Beijing’s mountainous Fangshan region where several landslides were reported, China National Radio reported.

It was not immediately clear if the three were already counted in the death toll. The government flood control headquarters told AFP that damage assessments were ongoing.

Up to 46 cm of rain fell in Beijing’s Fangshan district, the most rain to hit the city in a 14-hour period since records began in 1951, the report said.

Numerous roads in the capital were submerged beneath up to one metre of water, while 475 flights were cancelled.

On Sunday, clean-up crews were out repairing damage from the downpour under largely sunny skies, while workers scrambled to drain up to one million cubic metres of water from the sewer system.

Despite the damage, the rain was largely welcomed in drought-prone northern China which has suffered from a lack of rain over the last decade.

More torrential rain was forecast in China’s northeast and southwest, after at least 10 other people were killed since Friday.

In the northern province of Shanxi province, four people died and one remained missing after their pick-up truck was swept into a river as they attempted to cross a bridge, Xinhua said.

Landslides in southwestern Sichuan province resulted in six deaths, provincial flood control and drought relief officials told the agency.