Beijing Says it’s Been Truthful on Flooding Deaths

By GILLIAN WONG | July 25, 2012

The Beijing city government says it has been and will continue to be truthful in its reporting of the death toll from the weekend’s heavy flooding amid online skepticism.

Spokeswoman Wang Hui told reporters Tuesday that 37 people died in the city because of the torrential rains Saturday. She said flood-hit areas were still being inspected and any updates will be disclosed promptly.

“I want to say I hope everyone will not speculate that the Beijing government is hiding the death toll,” said Wang, who at moments during the briefing became teary-eyed as she described the force of the downpour in the worst-hit areas.

“Doing the inspection work is not easy. Do believe us that we will speak the truth,” she said. “If there are new figures we will immediately tell you.”

The vow of transparency comes as some Chinese microblog users voiced doubts about the official death toll and circulated rumors about higher casualties.

The official Xinhua News Agency cited the Civil Affairs Ministry as counting 111 storm deaths around the country as of Tuesday afternoon.

Authorities were still trying to pump water from sections of flooded highway after Beijing’s heaviest rain in six decades.

Although the worst-hit areas were in rural hilly outskirts of the city, the scale of the disaster was a major embarrassment for Beijing, the showcase capital where such things are not supposed to happen.

Billions of dollars have been poured into the city’s modernization, including venues for the 2008 Olympics, the world’s second-largest airport, new subway lines and dazzling skyscrapers, while basics like water drainage were apparently neglected.

The criticism mirrors some of that seen after a high-speed train crash in southeastern China a year ago Monday. That turned into a public-relations nightmare for the government and led many to question the quality of infrastructure in the country and the government’s transparency on disasters.

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