Anger erupts over handling of China flood

Heavy rain in China has killed at least 87 people and forced thousands from their homes, with nearly 80 others missing.
Muddy water gushing over roads and fields in Xingtai. The reason for the flood remains unclear, though some suspect a broken levee.
Muddy water gushing over roads and fields in Xingtai. The reason for the flood remains unclear, though some suspect a broken levee.PHOTO: REUTERS

Officials accused of negligence as deluge near Chinese city of Xingtai leaves 9 dead, 11 missing

BEIJING • Anger erupted yesterday over floods in northern China that have left more than 200 people dead or missing, with media and Internet users accusing officials of negligence.

At least 105 people are dead and 104 missing across Hebei province and local authorities have evacuated nearly 310,000 people. Flooding and rain-triggered landslides have caused the collapse of more than 52,000 houses and damage to 160,000.

A flash flood near the city of Xingtai in Hebei province, which left nine dead and 11 missing, has become a focus of the public's dissatisfaction with the government's response.

Angry villagers have blamed local officials for failing to warn them of the impending deluge, with Hebei Satellite TV showing one resident saying water had reached chest level before an alarm was raised.

Photos of the aftermath showed telephone poles toppled and homes completely collapsed, and debris submerged in a tide of brown mud.

Local deputy Communist party secretary Wang Qingfei drew ire for earlier comments that there had been "no casualties" in the flood, the Beijing News said.

A video of him kneeling before wailing relatives who lost family members was spread on social media. It showed three distraught women clutching at his arm while asking how many had died.

Other online footage showed locals clashing with police, with one video showing police lining up to form a road blockade that the person filming claimed was intended to stop residents from travelling to Beijing to report the incident.

It remained unclear whether the flood, which struck early on Wednesday while villagers slept, was the result of the levee of a nearby river breaking, a release of water from a local reservoir, or a combination of the two, the Beijing News said.

"Not to notify villagers about the Xingtai flood wasn't just an abandonment of the officials' duty - it was essentially manslaughter," wrote one incensed user of China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblog yesterday.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 24, 2016, with the headline 'Anger erupts over handling of China flood'. Print Edition | Subscribe