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Residents, workers quick to offer help during rainstorms


15:55, July 23, 2012

BEIJING residents got together to help each other during the massive rainstorms that turned many parts of the city into swimming pools on Saturday.

The rainfall was so overwhelming that a number of motor vehicles could be seen floating in the streets and many people rushed to help neighbors and even strangers who found themselves besieged by the floods.

Residents helped drag vehicles out of flooded areas and made sure the people inside got home safely.

With at least 80,000 travelers stranded at the Capital International Airport due to the cancellation of outbound flights, hundreds of taxi drivers and motorists in the nearby Wangjing neighborhood drove to the airport to offer rides to strangers.

The city's sanitation workers also performed above and beyond the call of duty to clean up the mess caused by the flooding. One sanitation worker was spotted submerging himself almost completely to clear a blocked sewage drain in Haidian District.

Other workers were seen acting as "human road signs" near the Beitaiping Bridge, standing in deep pools and guiding vehicles to avoid manholes, as the water had washed away a number of covers.

Li Fanghong, a police inspector in suburban Fangshan District, died while trying to rescue villagers trapped by floodwaters. Li was electrocuted by a live wire that had fallen into the water. Colleagues said that he had rescued 50 people in Fenghuangting Village before he was killed.

While many cheered the acts of bravery during the storm, there was anger at police who were ticketing stranded cars yet to be reclaimed by their owners.

Toll staff were also criticized for continuing to collect fees at toll gates on the airport expressway, despite vehicles, in long queues, being mired in knee-high water.

Xia Xueluan, a Peking University sociologist, said city authorities should take a more "humane" approach when handling such emergencies.

"More flexible measures should be adopted in those cases," Xia said.

The urban drainage system also came under fierce criticism, once again, as heavy rains and snow have often disrupted traffic in the capital in recent years.

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