Friday, July 27, 2012

China flooding gives government another credibility crisis

David Pierson in the Los Angeles Times: Deadly rain that battered [China's] capital over the weekend has left the Chinese government knee-deep in its latest credibility crisis. Authorities are accused of underreporting the number of dead while failing to provide adequate infrastructure to safeguard against flooding in a swiftly modernizing metropolis.

The official death count in Saturday's downpour, described as the heaviest in more than 60 years, was 37 people. The deluge paralyzed Beijing's outdated drainage system, flooding wide swaths of the city, toppling homes, downing power lines and trapping an unknown number of motorists in submerged vehicles.

Fangshan, a rural district on the southwestern edge of Beijing, was inundated by a torrent of muddy floodwater, raising suspicion that hundreds of dead may still be unaccounted for. A stretch of the G4 expressway leading through the area was under several feet of brown water and dozens of vehicles were submerged.

...The collective frustration of millions of Chinese is being shared on the country's frenetic Twitter-like microblogging platforms, outpacing the ability of censors to scrub away criticism of the government's response to the rainstorm.

China's  leaders faced a similar situation a year ago when two high-speed trains collided in the southern city of Wenzhou, killing dozens of people. Then, as now, the public questioned the accuracy of the death toll and the competency of the rescue effort. The government also drew criticism for ignoring safety issues as the nation undergoes rapid modernization...

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