Xingtai Flood– Government-Made Disaster

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A depressing photo has gone viral on Chinese social media. On the flood washed cornfield in said photo, a young child’s body lies in the mud, his limbs stiffly pointing to the sky. The flood washed away his clothes, which seems to be the last trace the flood has left for the child. The dead child cannot speak, but this heartbreaking photo is filled with accusation.

According to Chinese media, in July 20 early morning, Xingtai City of Hebei Province was suddenly flooded, causing several villages to be submerged. CPC Xingtai Propaganda Office official micro blog “Xingtai Post” published the news that by July 22, Beijing time 11:30 am, the disaster impacts Xingtai’s 21 counties (cities, districts), 762 thousands people are affected.

After the disaster, it was said that Daxian Village and Dong Wang Town in Xingtai Development Zone were flooded because the downstream villages were neither alerted nor evacuated when the upstream reservoir released the floodwater. In addition, some Internet users on the micro blog questioned the local government that they not only have failed to evacuate the villagers, but also tried to cover up the casualties. There were people who declared that at least 60 people were killed, over a hundred are missing per single town. From the photos uploaded by the local people, the number of dead is at least a few dozens, and some even claimed that over a thousand people died. However, the official statistic claims that only 9 people were killed and 11 are missing.

Villagers Zhang Erqiang told the Beijing News reporter, his son was 6 years old, and daughter was 10 years old. That night when the flood suddenly arrived, he got separated with both his son and daughter. After an entire day of searching, on July 22, he found the bodies of his children on the field by the river.

Villagers also told the Beijing News reporter, two disabled men didn’t have a chance to escape, and they drowned in their homes.

Another Daxian villager said that around 1:00 am on July 20, the flood suddenly poured into the village in a matter of seconds, and the water was two meters over the roof. The sleeping villagers were unprepared to encounter the disaster, while the entire village became a vast expanse of water. Currently, it has been confirmed that multiple people were killed by the flood.

Around 6:00 pm on July 20, the Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party Working Committee of Xingtai Development Zone suggested that “there were no casualties (in floods).” when he was interviewed by media. On July 22, a large number of local people protested on 107 State Road, resulting in state road congestion. Medias reported that most of these people were Daxian villager. Some emotional villagers even conflicted with riot police who were trying to control the situation at the scene. Wang Qingfei, the deputy Secretary of the Party Working Committee of Xingtai Development Zone who said “no casualties” on July 20, arrived at the scene to appease the masses, and knelt to beg the public for forgiveness. A few Internet users posted some videos that seem to record said scene on social media. In the video, the road was gridlocked by protesters; a large number of riot police formed a human wall to confront with the masses; vehicles of special action force also appeared in the video. Wang Qingfei was surrounded by angry villagers, while someone shouted: “Don’t let him go!” Later, Wang Qingfei got out of the riot under the police and armed polices’ escort.

Around the Spring Festival, Xingtai City began its urban central heating project. In order to lay the pipeline under the Qili River, the construction company released a massive amount of soil into the river, creating a dam to block the water flow, and the original earthen levee was also eradicated into the river. The Xingtai City flood control department has urged the company to clean up the river channel twice, but the company failed to do it. Many villagers believe that lack of awareness of flood control, destruction of the levee, blocked river, and filled arches of the Daxian bridge are the main causes for the upstream flood suddenly hitting Daxian village.

According to reporter’s field trip, the north-south oriented Beijing-Guangzhou high- speed railway overpass stretches across the Qili River, separating the Dongwang Village (upper stream) and Daxian Village (down stream), which both are located on Qili River’s northern shore. July 25 morning (Beijing Time), the Duowei news reporter saw the river along the two villages is under emergency construction.

The first construction site is near the Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed rail overpass. At least three operating excavators were trying to embank the both sides of the low earthen levees. After the field inspection, the reporter found that other than the levee under the overpass are covered by two or three centimeters of concrete, other river levees are almost boundless plain without any cover.

Mr. Hou who lives beside the levee indignantly accused, the levees weren’t repaired before the flood; why bother to make a show now? He told the reporter, that there wasn’t any levee built before the flood, and the natural riverbed sand was all sold by the colluded Development Zone government and the Bureau of Water Resources. Then, even the levee was taken away, and nothing was there to seal the gap. So, the [flood] problem was never the busted levee at all, because there simply wasn’t any levee to begin with.

On the levee under the high-speed rail crossroad, there is a reserved gap leading to the piers of the river. About 20 villagers were blocking the gap with sandbags. According to the local villagers, from the beginning of this year, Xingtai Thermal Plant performed pipeline construction at Qili River area. All of the wastes are temporally piled on the riverbed under the high-speed rail overpass through this gap, and partially blocking the riverbed. Meanwhile, the sand near the riverbed and the levee was also sold through this gap. Waste accumulation and the nominal levee were the first problems that lead to the Daxian village flood disaster.

Because the local traffic control, only disaster relief related vehicles are allowed to entering the Daxian village. Duowei reporter had to walk to the Dragon King Temple Bridge at the down streams. This is the second rescue construction site at Qili River. However, in a certain way, this bridge is an important factor that caused the nightmare of the Daxian Village.

Daxian village people called this point “The Bottom of the Qili River”. Why is it called “the Bottom of the River”? Because the river became only a trickle when it arrives here in the dry years. The upstream river is wider, and the flood discharge capacity is at 150 cubic meters / second (design capacity). Passing through Dragon King Temple Bridge, the river is also known as Shunshui River. The river heads north, bypasses eastern outskirts of Xingtai City, enters suburbs, and finally empties into the Daqing River. The river sharply narrows at Dragon King Temple Bridge: the span is less than a third of the upstream river, and its discharge capacity is at only a few dozens of cubic meters/second. What’s worst was that the section of the river that’s rapidly narrowing was completely blocked by the wastes dumped there and the rotten tree roots, so the river basically lost all its discharge capacity. After several days of constant rainfall, the precipitation was over 300 mm around the whole basin. Even if there was no upstream discharged flood, once the peak was blocked, it would have to go over the north shore’s low levee, and flooding the Daxian Village, and the Wang Dong Village, Renma Village nearby.

In fact, this scene can be confirmed with a blog post, which was previously spread on the internet. As early as two weeks before the floods, a blogger who goes by the username “Wufangyuanyin” issued a warning in his blog: “Xingtai ‘Qili River’, have you prepared the flood control and flood drainage? ” The author of the blog said, because of torrential rains he saw in the south, he thought of the Qili River project, so he got on his motorcycle, and rushed to the Qili River downstream area to check on Dongwang and Kongqiao. But all he saw was this: “the hundreds meters wide river was blocked here, two dirt dams blocking the river’s steam. Can it withstands the daily ‘South-to-North water diversion’ drainage and the continuous storms recently occurred in Xingtai city? ”

However, the thing is that no one cared before the flood, and after the flood, the government forbids the people to talk about it. July 24, a Wechat public account named “Knight Island”, affiliating with “People’s Daily” (Overseas), mentioned this blog in its article “Xingtai flood: who blocked flood drainage channel”, using the implied terms to reflect on issues such as the reasons behind the “water drainage crisis”, and whether the river regulation funds, which is supposed to be issued every year, have been put into to good use? Was the river dredged? Were there illegal constructions? Was there any case of obstruction or sand selling? Have any officials been on site to check on the situation of the river channel, and made full preparations and plans? But this article was deleted immediately for unknown reasons, and nobody knows whether it was manipulated by “the evil capitalistic forces” or it was instructed by the “politically correct.”

In the end, citizens were not timely evacuated, and they even lost the last fragile barrier – the north shore levee, which had been dug and emptied long before the advent of the flood. “Back in 1996, the levee was solid, and the village also alerted us,” said a 60-year-old villager ZhangWang, who lived in the eastern Dongwang Village.

Reporter noticed there is a large parking lot construction site located at the interchange of the State Highway 326 and the high-speed railroad; it stands out from the rest of the landscape. After visiting the local villagers, we learned that the parking lot is operated by a relative of the communist party secretary of Dongwang village. An emotional old man who lived across the provincial highway said that the relative of Dongwang communist party secretary was involved in the Qili Riverside Regulation Project. He said he won’t express it openly to avoid the party secretary’s revenges, but he told the reporter that this family has a catalytic influence. They sold the arable land in the village, the villagers were angry, but they can’t do anything about it. “This is how the levee’s sand was drained away.” It is difficult for reporter to verify whether there were corruption behaviors during the river regulation process. But without any exception, the villagers accepted the interviews accused both the village cadres and Water Conservancy Bureau that they have benefited a lot from the river regulation.

A villager lodging at Daxian villagers said, all of the river regulation funds had been corrupted, there was no one repaired the levee in the first place.

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