China copes with the aftermath of the heaviest rains for 60 years

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Beijing's government now believes 37 people died during the heaviest rains for 60 years on Saturday.

Twenty-five of those who lost their lives drowned, say officials. The city's drains simply could not cope with around 7 inches of rain in just a few hours.

Flood waters rose very quickly; reports from the worst affected Fangshan district in SW Beijing say the water level was up to around 1.3 metres, that's around 4 feet, three inches, in 10 minutes.

Some say parts of the sewer systems date back to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644).

Look at the photos from Fangshan and there's a lot of damage but thankfully, for now, the death toll remains relatively low considering more than 20 million people live in the city and surrounding areas.

A flooded highway in Fangshan District in Beijing
A flooded highway in Fangshan District in Beijing Credit: Sina Weibo
Submerged vehicles after the floods in the Fangshan district of Beijing
Submerged and damaged vehicles after the floods in the Fangshan district of Beijing Credit: Sina Weibo

No comfort to those who have lost loved ones but a sense that it could have been worse.

State media is praising the community spirit which brought out the best in Beijingers.

When around 80,000 passengers were stranded at the airport after roughly 500 flights were cancelled; some locals offered spare rooms and sofas to those with no hope of getting home. Social media, increasingly popular in China, allowed one man to quickly set up a free car shuttle service between the city and the airport.

Hundreds rushed to help pull out stranded vehicles.

A rescue boat approaches a partially submerged car on a flooded highway after heavy rainfalls in Beijing
A rescue boat approaches a partially submerged car on a flooded highway after heavy rainfalls in Beijing Credit: Reuters

However, lurking at the back of people's minds today is the thought that the death toll may well be higher, especially as only now are reporters getting access to the worst affected areas.

There's widespread mistrust of official figures.

Some people posting on Chinese twitter today are suspicious that the names of the dead have yet to be published.

One man says: "I bet more people have died in that area (Fangshan SW Beijing)".

A year ago, almost to the day, a high speed train crash on China's east coast led to furious tweets and posts on social media sites.

Millions took their anger online, questioning in no uncertain terms what they saw as a government cover up.

While the water is still draining away, similar anger is rising up, but on a smaller scale and mainly aimed at the city's ability to cope with huge amounts of rain.