The official death toll from the heavy downpour in Beijing on Saturday has risen to 37, although some Internet users and local residents believe the real figure could be much higher, the Wall Street Journal reported today.
The storm dumped as much as 16 inches of rain in the Chinese capital – the most in 60 years –turning streets into rivers, washing away cars and their terrified drivers and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.
At least 80,000 passengers were left stranded at Beijing Capital Airport after 500 flights were cancelled, Agence France-Presse reported.
According to the official news agency Xinhua, 25 people drowned, six died in building collapses, five were electrocuted and one was struck by lightening.
But the WSJ reported that some bloggers and residents believed the figure could be much higher.
"The death toll is definitely higher [than 37]," a man surnamed Li was quoted saying.
Another man said "it's probably more like 370," reflecting a general distrust in China about government figures.
Millions of people turned to online forums to express their anger over the lack of official warnings and at the way the city’s drainage system failed to cope with the deluge despite infrastructure upgrades and a four trillion yuan nation-wide stimulus package in 2008.
“The sewer system belongs to infrastructure, right?” Wang Mudi, a television host in Guangdong, wrote on his microblog, Bloomberg reported.
“Then how much money of the four trillion yuan flowed to the sewer system?”
According to AFP, a blogger named Bijiexiang wrote: “If the drainage system had been good, if the warning system had been put in place in a timely manner, if people had been told to stay home, would so many people have lost their cherished lives?”
Pan Anjun, deputy chief of the Beijing flood control headquarters, estimated the rainstorm caused about 10 billion yuan, or $1.6 billion, in economic losses, Xinhua reported.