08/01/2006, 00.00
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Summer storm stalls Beijing for hours

Flooded and blocked roads, difficulties in reaching the airport: an inadequate drainage system has been blamed as the Olympic date draws nearer.

Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – A sudden heavy downpour was all it took to paralyse Beijing yesterday, flooding roads and blocking traffic for about 15km in the city's northeast. The congestion has been blamed on an inefficient road network and a lack of co-ordination between government agencies.

The rainstorm hit the Capital International Airport, with the water level reaching 85mm within two hours. Along the expressway to the airport, pools of water were formed of up to 1.5 metres deep, making the road impassable for four hours.

Many people left their taxis and cars by the roadway and went to the terminal on foot, dragging their luggage under the pouring rain. The parked cars blocked the traffic even after the road was reopened.

By 5pm yesterday, more than 300 flights had been delayed, 60 had been cancelled, and 42 had been rerouted to other cities, according to airport authorities.

Many roads in the capital were also impassable because they were flooded by pools of water. The water drainage system was blamed although it was also noted that the same problems occur every year.

Su Hongfei, a senior engineer at the Beijing Flood Control Headquarters, said: "The sewage systems in residential complexes are usually almost at maximum capacity and when rain comes the systems cannot absorb all the water." She said the road network had been designed without taking the problem of rains into consideration.

Yesterday, a thick fog descended on Beijing, causing some roads in the eastern part to close down for four hours.

All these problems are causing concern, not least in view of the Olympic Games that are to be held in the city. The director of the Chinese Academy of Urban Planning and Design's transport institute, Zhao Jie, said the authorities wanted to make the main highways more secure, like the way to the airport."

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