Four officials suspended over Hebei flood response

Inquiry also finds dyke breach was result of rain, not upstream reservoir

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 July, 2016, 12:14am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 3:15pm

Four officials accused of mismanaging the response to deadly floods in Hebei province were suspended on Sunday, pending further investigation, state media reported.

The announcement came as the provincial government ­revised the toll from last week’s floods to at least 130 dead and 110 missing, with more than nine ­million people affected.

Hebei authorities said a flood in Daxian village, near the city of Xingtai, was caused by torrential rain, not the release of water from swollen upstream reservoirs as earlier claimed. But ­local media questioned why billions of yuan invested in flood-control infrastructure failed.

Early on Wednesday, a flash flood from the Qili River swept through Daxian, killing at least 17 and leaving one missing, a provincial working group investigating the incident said yesterday. The death toll for Xingtai in total was 34, with another 13 missing.

The four suspended officials were Xingtai Economic Development Zone Communist Party chief Duan Xiaoyong, Dongwang town party chief Zhang Guowei, Shijiazhuang transport bureau chief engineer He Zhankui and Jingxing county deputy chief Jia Yanting.

Duan and Zhang were the direct supervisors of Daxian, while Jingxing was among the province’s worst-hit areas, with 36 dead and another 35 missing.

225 dead or missing in Hebei province floods

The working group said further investigation would establish additional responsibilities and legal charges could not be ruled out.

Rain falling between last Monday and Wednesday drastically increased the amount of water in the Qili River. At its peak, some 580 cubic metres of water were flowing per second, nearly 15 times the river’s capacity, according to CCTV.

The group said the flood that broke the dyke devastating Da­xian was caused by heavy rainfall, denying that water released from upstream reservoirs was to blame.

The working group is also looking into any potential failure in the early warning system and evacuation procedures. Hebei traditionally suffers from drought, not excess rain.

Xingtai Mayor Dong Xiaoyu bowed at a local press conference on Saturday night as he apologised to the families of the dead or missing and other affected residents. State Councillor Wang Yong, who oversees disaster relief and work safety, arrived in Hebei in the morning to inspect flood controls.

Xingtai has spent more than 1 billion yuan since 2007 to improve the ability of the Qili to discharge floodwater.

Another 7 billion yuan (HK$8.1 billion) has been earmarked to revamp a 19km section of the river to ensure it can handle floods seen “once every 50 years”, according to the China Business Journal.

More rain was forecast for Hebei and Beijing overnight.