Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Living In Interesting Times

"Chinese cities are apparently unpractised in facing disasters such as Saturday's torrential downpour.  If so much chaos can be triggered in Beijing, the capital of the nation, problems in urban infrastructure of many other places can only be worse." Global Times editorial

But then, of course, the adversary is nature herself.  And as such when some natural environmental catastrophe occurs, no government is capable of matching its wits against hers. 

The monumental power of nature, demonstrated increasingly throughout the world during this gradual cataclysmic time of a change in what we deem to be the natural order of atmospheric and environmental conditions - unprecedented in the annals of human memory and national weather record-keeping - bears no easy solutions.

A senior engineer at the transport ministry, Zhang Junfeng, reasonably enough pointed out that no less than six months' worth of rain had fallen in a 24-year-period in Beijing.  "No drainage system could withstand such rain", he commented in response to the bitter criticism.  For there is a death toll that is rising even as the municipality and its government struggle to cope with the catastrophe.

It is now three days since the rain fell, causing such unanticipated floods that the city's six-lane G4 Jingshi Expressway was catastrophically affected.  As much as 45 centimeters of rain fell, leaving dozens of vehicles stranded on the highway, submerged in almost two metres of water.  "I heard a hundred people could have died here", said one bystander.

Thirty-seven deaths have been confirmed.  And 57,000 people have been given no option but to flee their homes.  Despite the billions that have been spent on the infrastructure of Beijing in recent years, it was incapable of withstanding that natural onslaught, relentless and overwhelming.  Over 31 roads caved in causing damage estimated at over 10 billion yuan, according to the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua.

At an outlying region of Beijing where the deluge was most powerful, damage is even more notable.  In Fangshan, at the Shidu scenic area, a broken road has had the effect of stranding up to ten thousand tourists.  Who have, without doubt, seen more unusually fearful landscapes than they might ever have anticipated when they set out to see the sights.

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