Death toll from weekend flooding up to 77, Beijing officials said
Chief of Fangshan district apologizes for flood damage in Beijing district
Locals angered by precise figures on number of animals killed, Global Times reports
Heaviest rain in 60 years overwhelmed Beijing's water system
Chinese authorities have more than doubled the official death toll from last weekend’s flooding that swamped highways, homes and farms across the capital.
Officials from the Beijing flood control headquarters said late Thursday that 77 people died in the downpour, the worst in 60 years, up from the initial toll of 37 deaths announced Sunday, according to state news agency Xinhua.
The 66 victims who have been identified included five who were killed while carrying out rescue efforts, spokesman Pan Anjun said. Eleven bodies remained unidentified, he added.
Pan said a further sharp increase in the death toll was not likely because the search for missing people was winding down. He blamed the delay in updating the death toll on the time it took to recover the bodies and identify them.
The bodies of 38 people were found in the southwestern Beijing district of Fangshan, Xinhua reported, the area hardest hit by the floods.
On Wednesday, the district’s chief issued a public apology to the 800,000 people affected by the floods in the area.
“We moved 65,000 people to the highlands. But there were still many flushed away by the flood. As the district chief, I should apologize to my fellow citizens,” Qi Hong said in a news conference broadcast on state-run CCTV.
Qi conceded that the flooding exposed problems with the city’s infrastructure.
“We learned from this rainstorm that the city infrastructure, especially the drainage system, needs to be improved,” he said.
Around 170,000 farm animals were killed when floodwater covered 5,000 hectares of farmland, causing economic losses of 6.1 billion yuan ($955 million), Xinhua reported, citing a statement from the Fangshan district government.
Of the 66,000 homes that were damaged, more than 8,000 were demolished, the statement said. About 50 bridges and around 750 kilometers (466 miles) of road also have been wrecked, it added.
Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu stressed Wednesday the need for more disaster relief efforts.
“We are now at a critical period for flood control, and every region and government department must attach more attention to combating floods and providing disaster relief,” Hui said, according to Xinhua.
In the days following the deluge, Chinese micro-bloggers unleashed a torrent of criticism over the authorities’ handling of the floods. They said they received little warning of the flood risk and questioned why the city’s water system was unable to cope.
The Beijing-based media group, Caixin wrote: “Why is this happening once and again? Year after year Beijing faces the same challenge, not even hosting the Olympics can provide a solution. That’s how vulnerable our capital city can be.”
Another user, chuntiangushi, wrote: “We can host the most luxurious Olympics and send satellites into space but can never seem to fix this drainage system. What a shame.”
On Wednesday, it appeared that the disaster may have claimed the jobs of two of the city’s most senior officials. However, neither resignation of the Beijing mayor or vice mayor were officially linked to the flood response.
Observers said the resignations could be part of routine leadership reshuffle. Media reports said the city’s legislature is now in session and its agenda includes appointments and dismissals.
CNN’s Dayu Zhang and Steven Jiang contributed to this report.