BEIJING (AP) – Torrential rain in areas around China’s capital, Beijing, killed at least 20 people and left 27 missing, the government reported Tuesday, as floods destroyed roads, uprooted trees and knocked out power.
Thousands of people were evacuated to shelters in schools and other public buildings in suburban Beijing and in the nearby cities of Tianjin and Zhuozhou.
The severity of the floods surprised the Chinese capital. Beijing usually has dry summers, but had a stretch of record heat this year.
Other areas, particularly southern China, have suffered unusually severe summer floods that caused dozens of deaths. Other parts of the country are struggling with drought.
Muddy water flowing down the streets washed away cars in the Mentougou district on Beijing’s western edge.
“The cars parked on the street floated and were washed away,” said one resident, Liu Shuanbao. “A couple of cars parked behind my apartment building disappeared in just a minute.”
Emergency workers used bulldozers to clear streets Tuesday as residents waded through mud.
“Neither officials nor ordinary people expected the rain to be so heavy,” said another Mentougou resident, Wu Changpo. “There were many landslides and flooded villages. I cried repeatedly when I saw these reports.”
Eleven deaths were reported in Beijing and authorities were looking for 27 missing people, according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Nine deaths were reported in Hebei province, which surrounds the capital.
Power to about 60,000 homes in the capital’s Fangshan district was knocked out, Phoenix TV reported on its website.
In Zhuozhou, southwest of Beijing, about 125,000 people from high-risk areas were moved to shelters, Xinhua said.
President Xi Jinping issued an order to local governments to go “all out” to rescue those trapped and minimize loss of life and damage to property.
The government in Tianjin, a port east of Beijing, said 35,000 people were evacuated from near the swollen Yongding River.
As much as 500 millimeters (almost 20 inches) of rain has fallen in some places since Saturday, according to the Hebei Province Weather Agency. Some areas reported as much as 90 millimeters (3 1/2 inches) of rainfall per hour.
About 13 rivers exceeded warning levels in the Haihe Basin, which includes Beijing, Tianjin and Shijiazhuang, Xinhua said, citing the Ministry of Water Resources.
About 42,000 people were evacuated from areas in Shanxi province to Hebei’s west, it reported, citing emergency officials.
In early July, at least 15 people were killed by floods in the southwestern region of Chongqing, and about 5,590 people in the far northwestern province of Liaoning had to be evacuated. In the central province of Hubei, downpours trapped residents in their vehicles and homes.
China’s deadliest and most destructive floods in recent history occurred in 1998, when 4,150 people died. most of them along the Yangtze River.
In 2021, more than 300 people died in floods in the central province of Henan. Record rainfall inundated the provincial capital Zhengzhou on July 20 of that year, turning streets into raging rivers and inundating at least part of a subway line.