We’ve had intense storms in Beijing in the past, but they only lasted for maybe an hour or so. This was a storm that lasted almost 10 hours [in central Beijing]. I was at home when it started on Saturday afternoon and the rain didn’t let up enough for me to go outside until 11pm. It was fearsome.
Bystanders help to push a stalled car down a flooded street in Beijing. Video posted on YouTube by our Observer Natalie Litofsky.
The flooding got so bad because of the lack of drainage in the capital. The street I live on ended up with about three feet of water on it, maybe more. The city is completely flat and it’s not built to handle that amount of water. A lot of subway stations, underpasses and underground tunnels end up flooding because there’s no where else for the water to go. My street floods even during light storms – the water usually gets to be about a foot and a half deep during a regular rainstorm.
I don’t think the city reacted as poorly as some people say. I was alerted 24 hours in advance that there was going to be a severe storm passing through, and was able to prepare. Because my street floods easily, there were emergency vehicles set up outside to pump water even before the rain started – which is probably why we only had about three feet of water on it instead of more.
However, it’ such a huge city, you can’t close off all the streets because you think they might flood. It would cause chaos, and aside from that, they don’t have the manpower to do so.
The skies cleared up on Sunday; it was some of the clearest weather we’ve had in months. When I woke up, almost all the water that had accumulated the day before had gone. Walking around the city centre, it was almost like nothing had happened. In the suburbs, however, where the storm hit the hardest, they’re still trying to clear up all the damage.