Anger in Beijing after record rain kills dozens | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 23.07.2012
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Anger in Beijing after record rain kills dozens

As weather forecasters predict more storms to come, Beijing residents are angry that more was not done to warn them in advance and to repair the city's outdated drains.

"If the drainage system had been good, if the warning system had been put in place in a timely manner, if people had been told to stay home, would so many people have lost their cherished lives?" a user of China's popular Sina Weibo microblogging site asked.

The user was just one of about nine million users who had expressed their anger online by Monday morning

"Beijing has been defeated by a huge rain storm, the city's infrastructure has failed, there is nothing to be proud of," another said, criticizing the attempt in parts of the media to put a positive gloss on the show of solidarity among citizens amid the disaster.

At least 25 people drowned in the heaviest rains the Chinese capital had seen since records began in 1951. Another six died when their homes collapsed, five were electrocuted and one person was struck by lightning. Almost 66,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes.

Workers pump flood water as a bus is stranded on a street

Beijing residents have criticized the poor drainage system

Much of Beijing was still inundated on Monday, including parts of the Beijing-Guangdong highway, a major arterial route to the south. Many roads were under up to a meter of water. Rescuers continued to search buildings that had collapsed for survivors.

However, the airport was reportedly functioning again after some 500 outbound flights had been cancelled and 80,000 passengers were stranded.

Critical editorial

A critical editorial in the Global Times daily said that "Chinese cities are apparently unpracticed in facing disasters such as Saturday's torrential downpour."

"If so much chaos can be triggered in Beijing, the capital of the nation, problems in urban infrastructure of many other places can only be worse," it concluded.

The scale of the disaster is a major embarrassment for the authorities, which have poured billions into modernizing the city but appear to have neglected the basics, such as water drainage.

A senior engineer from the Ministry of Transport said however that "no drainage system can withstand rains this big."

"In just one day it rained as much as it normally rains in six months in Beijing."

China's finance ministry reportedly allocated 120 million yuan (18.8 million US dollars) in relief funds.

Although the skies were clear on Monday, predictions were that there would be more storms.

act / rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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