Out of the blue, Beijing caught by heavy rainfall
The heaviest rain in years took Beijing by surprise yesterday afternoon, crippling subways, roads and the airport.
The Beijing Meteorological Bureau issued a yellow heavy-rain warning at about 3pm, predicting that a thunderstorm would hit the city in six hours. At 4.10pm, the weather authorities reduced the warning to blue - the least severe.
Twenty minutes later, the storm hit, throwing the capital into chaos.
The National Meteorological Centre said inner-city Beijing recorded up to 17.3 centimetres of rain - two and half times the monthly average for June - in 11/2 hours.
Beijing Subway said on its website that at 4.33pm water at a maintenance tunnel near Gucheng station rose rapidly and spilled over to Line One, the major line connecting the city centre with the eastern and western parts of the capital, threatening the safety of passengers.
The rain was so heavy that the company could not stop the water from rising even though three powerful pumps were running at maximum throttle.
The subway company said that by 6.30pm, it had cut off the power to Line One in western Beijing while maintaining normal operations in the east. Xinhua said that the operation of Line 13 and the Yizhuang Line were also affected.
Xu Yang, a passenger at Zhongguancun station on Line Four, said police were patrolling on platforms and all the escalators had stopped.
Another passenger, who took Line One and Line 10 during the rush hour, said there were more people than usual but he was grateful that most parts of the subway were still running because the traffic on major roads was almost at a standstill.
Beijing's Traffic Management Bureau said on its website that by 5.47pm flooding had occurred from the second to the fifth ring roads. The water was so deep that no cars could pass. The traffic authorities removed some road barriers to make an evacuation route for hopelessly jammed vehicles, but some cars, with water over their bonnets, could no longer move.
Beijing Capital International Airport said 144 flights were cancelled by 9pm, and 93 flights were facing delays of more than an hour. The airport also warned passengers that taxi services could no longer be guaranteed.
The rain is forecast to decrease significantly today, but authorities warned that geological hazards such as mudslides were likely in mountainous regions in north Beijing.
On the internet, Beijing residents shared photos, videos and jokes about the unexpected downpour. Some shared video of the moment passengers fled from subway stations as water poured in.
The number of days without precipitation that Beijing endured before snow fell on February 10, ending a near-record drought