'China's Katrina': second city flooded; corruption, incompetence blamed

This picture taken on July 23, 2012 show

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

This picture taken on July 23, 2012 shows Chinese residents cleaning up after heavy rains in Beijing. Beijing residents expressed fury on July 22 after the worst rains to hit the Chinese capital in more than 60 years left at least 37 people dead,

The devasted area in Beijing on July 26,

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

The devasted area in Beijing on July 26, 2012, after the worst rainstorms in six decades pounded the capital city on July 21 leaving the metropolis flooded and tens of thousands of people stranded in surging waters.

Two elderly residents stand by their hom

AFP/Getty Images

Two elderly residents stand by their home in the devasted area in Beijing on July 26, 2012.

Workers help clear mud from a street in

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Workers help clear mud from a street in the devasted area in Beijing on July 26, 2012.

Residents make their way home with donat

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Residents make their way home with donated blankets in the devasted area in Beijing on July 26, 2012.

A man makes his way home with donated bl

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

A man makes his way home with donated blankets in the devasted area in Beijing on July 26, 2012.


Outrage in China about the dozens of deaths last weekend when Beijing's drainage system couldn't cope with heavy rains and much of the city was flooded has been followed by more frustration and anger today.

There was flooding Thursday in Tianjin, a city of 6 million, during a downpour there. Even the state-controlled Xinhua news agency couldn't ignore what was happening. "The downpour has paralyzed traffic in downtown Tianjin, drowning many roads. Dozens of vehicles were stranded on Baidi road in Nankai district after their engines died in the flood," it reports. "Many pedestrians complained they had to trek in knee-deep water. In some sections of Xianyang Street, flood water was waist deep."

As NPR's Louisa Lim reported for Morning Edition, the flooding in Beijing — which officially killed about three dozen people and caused about $2 billion in damages — has led to some comparing the disaster and the Chinese government's seeming fecklessness in preventing it to the U.S. government's failure to prevent and deal with the damage done to New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"Many are questioning why the city's infrastructure is so poor that it can't cope with heavy rain," Louisa reported, and are calling what happened "terrorism by corruption." Confidence in the government's ability to provide basic services is eroding. And many in Beijing are very skeptical about the official claims concerning the number of deaths. "I think the figures should be much higher," a "Mr. Li" told Louisa.

Online, there has been "rage ... over the woeful sewer system in the capital and what many saw as a feeble government response," The New York Times' IHT Rendezvous blog adds. The government, Louisa says, has been waging a "propaganda war" — hailing the "triumph and bravery" of rescuers — to try and counter the criticism.

As the latest Associated Press story says, rumors are swirling about higher-than-reported death tolls and "in Beijing's worst-affected Fangshan district, residents were compiling their own death toll online using both public and private chat rooms on the popular Baidu website."

Towns around Beijing were also flooded by the weekend storms. More problems may like immediately ahead:

"AccuWeather.com forecasts more rain throughout the remainder of the week for Beijing, which could lead to additional flash flooding on the already waterlogged grounds and mudslides in the capital's mountainous regions."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio.

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