Beijing flood tragedy raises questions over drainage infrastructure

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As flood-ravaged Beijing dealt with the aftermath of the heaviest rain in six decades, including the deaths of 37 people, questions were being asked about whether the city’s push for modernisation came at the expense of basic infrastructure such as drainage networks.

Rescuers were still searching buildings that collapsed during Saturday night’s torrential downpour and some roads that were covered in waist-deep water remained closed.

The city government said that as of Sunday night, 25 people had drowned, six were killed when houses collapsed, one was hit by lightning and five were electrocuted by fallen power lines.

Residents shared photos online of submerged cars stranded on flooded streets, city buses with water up to commuters’ knees and cascades of water rushing down the steps of overpasses.

The official China Daily newspaper reported 60,000 people had been moved from their homes and damages from the storm had reached at least 10 billion yuan (£1 billion).

Although the worst-hit areas were in rural hilly outskirts of the city, the scale of the disaster was a major embarrassment for the showcase capital of China.

The city has seen tens of billions of pounds poured into its modernisation, adding venues for the 2008 Olympics, the world’s second-largest airport, new underground lines and dazzling skyscrapers – while basics like water drainage were apparently neglected.

“If so much chaos can be triggered in Beijing, the capital of the nation, problems in urban infrastructure of many other places can only be worse,” said a commentary in the state-run Global Times newspaper.