Since Wednesday, heavy flooding in Hebei has killed at least 130 people and left 110 missing. Four officials from areas where casualties were the highest have been suspended.
The flooding hit residents living near the Qili River especially hard, particularly those close to the city of Xingtai. Torrential rains caused the river to overflow, despite the fact that the Xingtai government has spent over 1 billion RMB since 2007 to prevent this from happening.
Official investigations into the flooding have denied rumors online that the flood was caused by the opening up of a reservoir upriver. HKFP found a notice on the official Nanhe County police Weibo account warning residents that the reservoir opening was planned for 3 a.m. that night. However, residents report flooding occurring at least an hour earlier.
In the village of Daxian near Xingtai city, villagers reported that no warning was given until the flash flood was already upon them, according to South China Morning Post. Seventeen people died in Daxian alone, including three children. Thirty-four died in Xingtai city, and 13 remain missing.
However, the municipal government said last Wednesday that there were no casualties in Daxian, according to CCTVNews. A video later circulated online that showed Wang Qingfei, a senior official of Xingtai, kneeling before family members of the victims, surrounded by more outraged villagers and police.
Protesters filled the streets in Xingtai on Friday, angry about the fact that they were given no warning. Some were apparently also under the belief that the flood was caused by the manual opening of the reservoir upstream. Videos posted to Weibo last week show locals clashing with police.
Last week, gruesome images of those killed in the Xingtai floods began to be posted on the internet. Those posts were quickly harmonized on Weibo, but continued to spread via Chinese Twitter users.
Yesterday, four officials from Xingtai and other badly flooded areas in Hubei were suspended for “dereliction of duty in response to the deadly floods.” The mayor of Xingtai bowed and apologized for “failing to protect people’s lives and properties” in a press conference on Saturday. Accountability investigations are underway.
In Hebei province, nearly 310,000 people were evacuated as over 200,000 houses were damaged or collapsed, reports Ecns.cn. All these numbers continue to add on to what has already been a historically devastating year of flooding across China.
By Amy Yang
[Images via NetEase / Facebook / Hong Kong Free Press]