Shenzhen's famed oil-painting village of Dafen was awash in water-logged Van Gogh and Monet knock-offs and original designs yesterday as dealers evaluated the cost of tropical storm Neoguri. The storm, which had been a typhoon when it hit Hainan on Friday, weakened and hit the area on Saturday. Even so, it inundated Dafen's drainage system and in about 10 minutes, paintings worth millions of yuan were in metre-deep foul water. Village officials said nearly 300 galleries were affected, causing direct losses of at least 16 million yuan (HK$17.85 million). But dealers said the storm had cost them far more. Dafen was set up as an artists' colony 19 years ago by a Hong Kong artist and dealer, who was lured by the low rents and the village's proximity to Hong Kong. Other galleries opened in the 1990s, painting high-quality fakes for export. The real boom came in 2002 when the government turned the village into a base of the cultural industry. Its cheap housing has attracted thousands of painters and apprentices, and yesterday, despite the risk of further rain, art dealers laid their damp, cracked versions of Claude Monet's View of Venice and Vincent van Gogh's Sunflowers out to dry. Dealer Cao Feng had hundreds of paintings from his stockrooms drying on the street. He said the deluge had cost him at least 300,000 yuan. 'I wanted to export two containers of paintings to my overseas clients on April 24,' he said. 'All the paintings were framed up and packed, just waiting for a final check. 'The flood came too suddenly. There was also a loss of power and I was afraid of getting electrocuted. So I had to let thousands of paintings soak all night.' He said his efforts to build the business over the past six months were wiped out and he had to repay people who had placed orders. Gu Xingna , owner of the Dafen Roman Holiday Gallery, said April was a key time because the Canton Fair and Shenzhen's Cultural Industry Fair brought in overseas orders. She said: 'I have to deliver 20,000 oil paintings to France on April 26, which cost 50 yuan each. The clogged drain is killing me.' Thomas Tsang, a Hong Kong businessman who owns the Risheng Gallery, said the Shenzhen authorities should compensate dealers because construction of the subway and roads had clogged the drains. 'It's not the first typhoon we've had. It's been safe for years. Why did the accident happen so suddenly? The officials should think of possible risks and prepare.' According to the Shenzhen media, the authorities denied they were responsible for the damage and suggested the galleries buy insurance against future losses.