A massive storm hit Beijing last weekend causing a flood that engulfed a 13-foot bus and buried a village, but the mayor’s official death toll was 37.
Mayor Guo Jinlong and one of his vice mayors, Ji Lin, resigned amid criticism from local residents about how authorities handled the flooding disaster in Beijing. Local Party leaders immediately promoted Wang Anshun and Li Shixiang as the deputy mayor and vice mayor of Beijing, state-run media confirmed on July 25.
Just before announcing his resignation in a July 24 meeting, Guo demanded that local Party leaders conduct a thorough investigation into the number of casualties from the recent storm, according to New Beijing Times. The Times’ news report characterized Guo’s comments as a last ditch effort to get the real death toll number due to public criticism.
Rarely do Chinese officials investigate the death toll of a natural disaster after the state-controlled media releases an official number. Washington-based expert on China issues, Shi Zangshan offered an explanation. “Guo knew that residents have witnessed the many people who died [because of the storm] and there was no way he could hide it,” Shi told The Epoch Times.
A blogger with the username ??ONE_Mr-zhao_COMBAT, who participated in the rescue efforts, posted on Sina Weibo that the official death toll was very conservative.
“Today the military sealed off the area between the main road of Dujiakan to Changzhou Road. Seventeen people drowned to death. That is a very conservative number. There was a big bus that was four meters high [13 feet]. It was buried in the flood, which was five meters high [16 feet]. … In Zhoukoudian, one village was buried. Only around 70 people were saved. What do you think?”
Residents also blamed the city government for its weak rescue efforts. A post that widely circulated on China’s social media said that one man’s rescue was delayed for hours. Family members of other victims also reported that the emergency phone line stayed busy when they called.
Other online critics pointed out the problematic priorities of regime officials. After a detailed accounting in the press on July 25 of the destruction wrought by the flood—so many houses collapses, so many bridges destroyed, financial costs of so much—the director of Maite Cultural Media, a company in Beijing, wrote “You got the physical loss statistics so fast, but people are the greatest treasure,” referring to how a complete death toll had still not emerged.
He added that for a government, “having the people’s hearts is to be treasured, and your losses are going to be devastating.”
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