Beijing escapes downpour as killer storm loses power

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 August, 2005, 12:00am

Beijing escaped Tropical Storm Matsa unscathed yesterday, despite warnings for residents to brace for the capital's heaviest downpour in 10 years.

Matsa, downgraded from a typhoon, had earlier killed 10 people as it swept across the southeast coast.

The storm's rain bands were originally forecast to hit Beijing early yesterday but by nightfall there was no sign of rain.

In preparation for the storm, the city's flood control and drought relief headquarters asked 17 reservoirs to reduce water levels and warned 18 water catchment areas operating tourist boat businesses to release some water to prevent flooding.

In addition to 2,500 police officers on watch, the Beijing Municipal Administration Committee sent more than 1,100 observers to monitor safety conditions under expressway bridges which saw traffic chaos in rainstorms last year.

When it comes, however, rain will bring welcome relief to Beijingers who have been sweltering in high temperatures for the past few days.

'We've had two sauna-like days when our weather station has forecast rainfall,' said 35-year-old office worker Hu Hongmei . 'I took my umbrella every day and closed the windows at home every night because of the forecast. I had hoped the forecast could be more accurate a forecast than my rheumatism.'

The typhoon lashed Taiwan on Friday and swept through Zhejiang , Shanghai, Anhui and Jiangsu at the weekend. It reached Shandong on Sunday night, after killing seven people in Shanghai, two in Zhejiang and one in Anhui.

Direct economic losses from the typhoon in Shanghai were put at more than 100 million yuan.

Heavy rain and winds destroyed crops and damaged infrastructure in the Shandong province cities of Zaozhuang , Linyi , Rizhao , Qingdao and Jinan , but no casualties were reported.

The Shanghai Flood Prevention Command Office said four of the city's victims were electrocuted in floodwaters.

Vegetable prices in the city soared by up to 50 per cent in the days leading up to the typhoon's expected arrival, reports said.

Heavy rain is forecast in seven northern provinces and municipalities today under the continuing influence of Matsa.