English News

  • youtube
  • facebook
  • twitter

Anger builds in China after government deliberately floods towns to save Beijing

Several people are posting online pleas for help in finding hundreds of missing people in China

As the heavy rains in China finally ceased on Tuesday, much of Beijing was spared because officials made sure the flooding flowed to the cities surrounding Beijing, reported the New York Times.

Chinese State media reported that officials in Hebei Province, which borders Beijing, had activated flood gates and spillways in seven low-lying flood control zones to prevent rivers and reservoirs in Beijing and the region’s main metropolis, Tianjin, from overflowing.

Ni Yuefeng, the Communist Party head of Hebei, stated that he ordered the “orderly activation of flood storage and diversion areas in order to relieve pressure on Beijing’s flood control and resolutely build a ‘moat’ for the capital”.

The move further overwhelmed the nearby city of Zhuozhou in Hebei, which was already dealing with floods caused by a broken levee and an overflowing local river. According to the New York Times, its streets and neighbourhoods turned into a brown, muddy lake, with water up to 23 feet deep demolishing homes and businesses.

Nearly a million people have been forced to evacuate in the province and in adjacent villages on the fringes of Beijing. In some areas, the flooding disrupted power supplies as well as internet and mobile connections. Residents posted online pleas for help in finding hundreds of missing people.

In China, the crisis in Zhuozhou set off widespread anger as, in some areas, help arrived slower than expected, leaving many stranded. Survivors also complained that they were not given ample warning about the discharge of floodwaters, and questioned if they would be compensated for their losses, New York Times reported.

In particular, people have denounced what they perceive as a Hebei leadership that has been more interested in appeasing national leaders in Beijing than in safeguarding millions of Chinese citizens.

“To protect Beijing, no one cares if we in Hebei are being flooded,” a resident of a village on Zhuozhou’s outskirts complained on Friday morning, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal for criticising the government.

“No one ever informed us of the flood discharge or told us to prepare to evacuate — if we had known this information, we would not have left so many things behind,” said a villager, who gave his family name as Yu.

“Everything is soaked in water. I can barely calculate my loss,” he added.

The government and party have set aside at least USD 20 million for flood prevention, relief and reconstruction efforts in Beijing and Hebei; another USD 63 million was allocated on Friday to Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei for the restoration of dams, reservoirs and other water facilities, New York Times reported.

China has also built one of the world’s largest international airports in southernmost Beijing next to the Hebei border, with five runways instead of the usual two or three. After commercial jetliners ended up sitting wheels-deep in the water there on Monday, closing the airport, top officials ordered action.

“Ensure the absolute safety of key defence targets such as Xiong’an New Area and Beijing Daxing Airport,” Li Guoying, China’s minister of water resources, ordered on Tuesday, according to New York Times.

China has, for several years, been dealing with extreme weather emergencies across the country. The world’s heaviest single hour of rain ever recorded in a major city occurred two years ago in the central city of Zhengzhou, flooding a subway train and road underpasses.

This week’s downpour along the Beijing-Hebei provincial border, with almost 30 inches of rain falling in northwestern Beijing, came soon after the most severe heat wave in Beijing since modern temperature readings began in 1961.