07/23/2012, 00.00
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Beijing residents' wrath at flood in city without sewers

Heaviest rains in 61 years. 37 victims - drowned, electrocuted by collapsed polls or lightning - and seven missing. Sewer system, which dates from the Ming period, focus of anger. Flooded roads, motorists trapped in their vehicles, collapsed houses, 500 flights canceled, 66 thousand people evacuated. Dozens of deaths in Hebei, Shaanxi, Sichuan.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The residents of Beijing reacted with fury after a torrential downpour - the heaviest in 61 years - killed 37 people, with seven others still missing. The comments of people on blogs and those of experts accuse the city government for failing to modernize the sewage system, even though the capital has become a metropolis with 20 million inhabitants.

By this morning at least 9 million people posted comments on Sina Weibo, the "Facebook" of China, accusing the government of not having given any official warning and lack of maintenance of the sewer system.

The rain fell uninterruptedly for 16 hours, from July 21, Saturday afternoon until the early hours of the next day. Some areas of the city were under water, which came to about one meter in height; traffic tunnels were flooded, creating traffic problems, several houses collapsed; at the airport 500 flights were canceled, stranding at least 80 thousand passengers. At least 66 thousand people were evacuated from their homes.

The death toll is severe: 25 people drowned, six died in the collapse of their home, five were killed by electric shock from collapsed light poles, a person was struck dead by lightning.

Many motorists were trapped in their cars, unable to get out of them because of flooding, emergency crews had to dive into the sea of ​​mud to try to open the manhole covers and drain the water.

The Beijing-Guangzhou highway, towards the south is still flooded, creating traffic problems.

Some of the criticism of Beijing residents are unfair: the Met Office warned that in northern China (and Beijing), heavy rains were coming; personnel had been placed at the entrance of the approximately 100 subways that risked flooding. The government attempted to defned itself revealing that at least 4 trillion Yuan has been spent on modernizing the infrastructure of the city. But people wonder how much of that 4 trillion was spent on upgrading the sewer network. Beijing, in fact, is flooded every year when it rains, even when the downpour is less intense.

According to some experts, the great building boom that is transforming Beijing has completely ignored the issue of sewers for the nearly 20 billion people living in the metropolis. Much of the drainage structure dates back to the Ming period of the sixteenth century!

It is also a serious problem in other parts of China. The city of Qingdao (Shandong) prides itself on having one of the most "modern" sewer-systems, but they date from the early 1900s, when the city hosted a German concession. And the sewers are the work of German engineers.

Heavy rains have caused deaths in other parts of China: in Hebei, three people died and one is lost, 17 people are missing in Shaanxi, in Sichuan eight people have drowned due to heavy rains.

According to initial government data, the torrential rains of recent days have already caused damage to the tune of 10 billion Yuan.



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