Torrential rain in areas around China’s capital, Beijing, killed at least 20 people and left 27 missing, the government reported Tuesday, as flooding 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 flooding took the Chinese capital by surprise. Beijing usually has dry summers but had a stretch of record-breaking heat this year.
Other areas, especially China’s south, have suffered unusually severe summer flooding that caused scores of deaths. Other parts of the country are struggling with drought.
Muddy water surging down streets washed away cars in the Mentougou district on Beijing’s western edge.
“The cars parked on the street floated and got washed away,” said a resident, Liu Shuanbao. “A couple of cars parked behind my apartment building disappeared in just one minute.”
Emergency workers used bulldozers on Tuesday to clear streets while residents waded through mud.
“Neither officials nor ordinary people expected the rain to be so heavy,” said another Mentougou resident, Wu Changpo. “There were a lot of landslides and flooded villages. I cried repeatedly seeing 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 some 60,000 homes in the capital’s Fangshan district was knocked out, Phoenix TV reported on its website.
In Zhuozhou, southwest of Beijing, some 125,000 people from high-risk areas were moved to shelters, Xinhua said.
President Xi Jinping issued an order for local governments to go “all out” to rescue those trapped and minimize loss of life and property damage.
The government of 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.
Some 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 of 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, rainstorms trapped residents in their vehicles and homes.
China’s deadliest and most destructive floods in recent history were in 1998, when 4,150 people died, most of them along the Yangtze River.
In 2021, more than 300 people died in flooding in the central province of Henan. Record rainfall inundated the provincial capital of Zhengzhou on July 20 that year, turning streets into rushing rivers and flooding at least part of a subway line.