Beijing learns a soggy summer lesson

Updated: 2013-06-12 02:21

(China Daily)

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After last year's record flooding wreaked havoc in the capital, the authorities are now better prepared, Xu Wei reports.

Last July, Lyu Hong was driving his SUV in Beijing when the heavens well and truly opened.

He was stranded in his vehicle on the Beijing-Hong Kong-Macao Expressway as the heaviest rain in 60 years poured down on the Chinese capital, turning day into night.

Beijing learns a soggy summer lesson

A bridge in Beijing's Fangshan district, which was damaged by the heavy downpour that hit the municipality on July 21 last year, is now open to traffic. Zou Hong / China Daily

But this year, the 49-year-old Beijing resident drew up a list of essentials for his car ahead of the rainy season. It includes swimsuits, an emergency hammer and clothing wrapped in waterproof material.

"I think the public should learn a lesson from last year and there should be more safety awareness in cases of flooding," Lyu said.

"When drivers see the roads are flooded, they should immediately stop and warn the vehicles coming from behind."

Last summer's deluge in the city left 79 people dead, caused economic losses estimated at 10 billion yuan ($1.61 billion), flooded thousands of homes and crippled the transport network.

Liang Wei, the owner of a BMW submerged near Guangming village in the flooding on July 21, spent nearly 400,000 yuan on repairs to his car, including the engine.

However, despite Liang paying more than 80,000 yuan annually to insure the vehicle, his insurance company refused to compensate him for the damage, as the policy did not cover water damage.

But Liang said he was lucky, as his case attracted media attention and the insurance company eventually agreed to pay out.

"This year, I might not be so lucky," he said, adding that he will buy flood insurance for his vehicle after last year's cover expired.

Even so, he said he will now avoid driving in rainy weather.

Tips on safety sent to residents in a letter by Beijing municipality's flood prevention and drought relief headquarters include avoiding mountainous areas, rivers and low-lying areas.

This year, with the forecasters saying that the city has every chance of experiencing similar extreme weather, questions remain as to how the authorities and residents will react.

"After the lessons learned last year, this year's flood prevention work has been upgraded to an unprecedented level," said Wang Gang, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, which is in charge of flood prevention in residential communities and at construction sites.

This summer, flood prevention has been listed as a key role for most government departments in the municipality, with clear targets set: No deaths of residents or large numbers of injuries, according to Wang Yi, chief of the municipality's flood control and drought relief office.

According to the flood control headquarters, the municipality entered the flood season on June 1 and major rainfall is expected from July 20.

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