Saturday, July 28, 2012

Beijing Flood Death Toll Hits 77

A bus is almost submerged in Tianjin on Thursday. Heavy rain, widely forecast, bypassed Beijing on Wednesday but battered the neighboring city. [Photo/China Daily]

Highways to get water indicators as people battle to resume normal life

The death toll from the storm that lashed the capital on Saturday climbed to 77, as more bodies were retrieved, the Beijing municipal government said on Thursday night.
Eleven of the bodies have yet to be identified.

Of the 66 identified victims, five perished in the line of duty, according to the Information Office of the municipal government.

Of the remaining 61 civilian victims, 36 men and 25 women, 46 drowned and five died from electric shock. Collapsed buildings claimed three lives, two people were struck by flood debris and two died from trauma-induced shock.

Falling objects killed two people and one person was hit by lightning.

The massive debris flow made search operations more difficult, and this caused a delay in the government releasing figures, said Pan Anjun, deputy head of the municipal flood control and drought relief headquarters. Identification procedures had to be carried out thoroughly, he said.

The government will continue search efforts but there are no further reports of missing people, the information office said. The heaviest rain in more than six decades battered the capital on Saturday, with the average precipitation reaching 170 mm while a town, in the suburban district of Fangshan, saw 460 mm.

Rain: Drivers urged to take precautions

Homes have been flooded and people are staying at temporary shelters.

Homes beneath ground level in a neighborhood at the northwestern corner of the Guangqumen Bridge were flooded, forcing more than 300 residents to seek temporary shelter.

More than 100 of the residents are now living in ten tents, donated by individuals, in the square outside the building.

"The flood rushed into the basement so quickly that you had hardly any time to clear away any of your stuff," said Zhang Junfeng, a 28-year-old saleswoman in a supermarket in Beijing.

"I only had time to grab my mobile phone and my purse as the water rose to my chest in just a few minutes.

"We hope the government can find us a place to live, instead of the tents," she said.
To protect drivers, alert lines, indicating water levels, will be put on specific highways and underpasses.

The yellow warning line will be 20 centimeters above ground, alerting drivers to proceed with caution while the red line, prohibiting further driving, is 27 centimeters above ground.

The lines will be easily identifiable, according to the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau.

The move follows the death of a 34-year-old driver who drowned when a four-meter flash flood engulfed his vehicle near Guangqumen Bridge on Saturday. The automatic windows failed to function under the water.

"Warning signs indicating water levels on all low-lying underpasses will be of great help for drivers," said Guo Mingfeng, a 45-year-old taxi driver who has been driving for more than 20 years.

Yang Qingyuan, an expert in escape training in Beijing, said it is also important to take precautionary measures such as having a fire extinguisher, a knife, some gloves and a hammer in the vehicle.

A downpour, widely forecast to hit Beijing on Wednesday, bypassed the capital but battered the neighboring city of Tianjin.

Thursday morning saw more than 300 mm of rain, Tianjin's meteorological center said with the outer Xiqing district, one of the worst-hit areas, receiving 345 mm.

There were no reports of drowning but four people suffered electric shock and were being treated at hospital, according to the Tianjin Emergency Medical Center.

Meanwhile, in Hebei province, 32 people were confirmed dead and another 20 are missing after a storm over the weekend, provincial authorities said on Thursday. More than 2.66 million people had been directly affected by the storm that flooded 59 counties in the province, according to the provincial civil affairs bureau.

Among the victims, 13 were killed in Yesanpo, a scenic spot in Laishui county, which neighbors Beijing's Fangshan district. About 28,540 houses were destroyed and 170,710 hectares of cropland were inundated.

Direct economic losses totaled more than 12.28 billion yuan ($1.92 billion).
Local governments had to relocate 226,600 people to safer areas. The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Civil Affairs allotted 70 million yuan to Hebei for disaster relief.

Storms have hit 22 provincial-level regions in China since July 20.

8 Missing in Heavy Flash Flood Hitting Indonesia's West Sumatra

A flash flood hit the capital of West Sumatra province and has inundated homes in five subdistricts, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate and seek refuge on higher ground with eight people reported missing, local media reported on Wednesday. The flood struck 

Padang at about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday during the time people were breaking their fasting, following more than three hours of heavy downpour. The waters reached as high as four meters but was down to around one meter on Wednesday morning.

"No one realized that the rivers in Padang burst their banks," Edi Asri, an official from the Padang disaster mitigation agency, said on Wednesday, as quoted by Antara news agency.
Water rushed out of the swollen Lubuk Kilangan, Kurao Pagang and Batang Kuranji rivers, destroying the houses and other buildings in its path. The worst hit areas were Limau Manis, Batu Busuk, Kampung Koto, Cengkeh, Padang Besi, Kalumbuk and Tunggul Hitam.

"The residents of these flood-hit areas have been evacuated to mosques located on higher ground," Edi said.

No casualties have been reported, but eight people were reported missing on Tuesday night.

The Joint Search and Rescue Team has been working since Tuesday night to evacuate residents still trapped in the flooded areas.

"SAR teams have been using rescue boats to save people whose houses were inundated by floodwaters," Edi said.

The team had difficulty accessing some of the areas, including Limau Manis in Pauh subdistrict where floodwaters were still chest- deep. The flood also destroyed several bridges and cut off electricity, isolating several homes.

A local resident said Tuesday's disaster was worse than the last flooding they suffered in 2008.

"When the flash flood hit in 2008, nothing happened to the bridge, but today's flooding is worse," he said.

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