Thanks to record rainfalls this month, many rivers in Minnesota are spilling their banks. The Mississippi River is still two days away from cresting in the Twin Cities and Harriet Island, across from downtown St. Paul already looks like this:
Beijing was hit with a terrible rainstorm over the weekend, leaving 37 dead. From the pictures that have been posted online, it seems that much of the city was turned into a big lake because the storm sewers were not up to the task of handling the 7 inches of rain that fell in the space of 20 hours.
To understand the scope of the damage, it’s important to know a bit about the geography of Beijing.
Beijing is a municipal district under the direct control of the central government; it does not belong to any province. It comprises 15 districts, 5 of which are considered ‘urban’ and 9 ‘rural.’ The entire municipality is the size of Kuwait, with the urban districts only comprising a small percentage of the land area, as you can see in this map.
News reports indicate that much of the death and destruction took place in the Fangshan District, which received 18 inched of rain during the storm. The term ‘suburban’ has been used by some to describe this district, but that conjures up certain images (at least to outsiders) of middle class wealth.
In fact, Fangshan is predominantly rural and mountainous, and also quite poor. Except for a few newly built satellite towns, most of the communities are remote mountain villages. That this area would experience severe flash flooding in a deluge is not surprising.
I have friends who work in some of these communities, and I’m hoping and praying that they are alright.
Here are some links to more articles and pictures:
Floods in Beijing — in Pictures (The Guardian)
Death and Destruction in 20 Hours (China Daily)
Beijing Underwater (Foreign Policy)