Public Anger Floods Beijing (Updated)

Last Saturday’s downpour engulfed Beijing in a serious flood, and the water-logged capital’s anxiety is surely mounting as more heavy rains are forecasted throughout the week. As the city deals with the aftermath of the largest rainstorm in 61 years, the Internet has proved to be a survey-ground for public reaction – while many netizens used Weibo to criticize the government’s lack of preparation and inability to deal with the disaster, the online environment also proved a useful venue for those in need, and those willing to help. One major point of contention, expressed both in the physical and digital worlds, deals with doubt over the official death toll released on Monday, which remains at 37. An article in yesterday’s China Daily emphasizes transparency in official government figures: The city suffered the worst rain in six decades over Saturday and Sunday and many people have questioned the official death toll. Wang Hui, director of the Information Office of Beijing Municipal Government, told a news conference they understood the importance of information transparency following the 2003 SARS cover up. She added that the death toll had not risen because some bodies are yet to be identified. According to their official micro blog early Tuesday evening, 1.9 million are affected by the rain, 77,325 have been relocated, and the government has allocated a 100 million yuan disaster relief fund. But it made no mention of casualty figures. China Daily reports from today keep the death toll at 37, but accounts from the ground have suggested that this number may be a serious underestimation. On Monday, The Wall Street Journal quoted locals expressing their disbelief: “The death toll is definitely higher [than 37],” said a man surnamed Li who was found standing by the side of the road in Shuangma Zhuang village next ...
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