A staff member disinfects a temporary shelter in Tanzhesi town, Mentougou district of Beijing, Aug 15, 2023. (Photo by Wei Xiaohao/China Daily)
Some villagers in Beijing's Mentougou district were allowed to return to their homes on Tuesday, after being evacuated to escape the recent severe flooding brought by historic torrential rain.
After assessing the damage with their own eyes, many said it was clear that it will take time for them to rebuild their homes and for their villages to return to what they once were.
Yang Yulan from Nanxinfang village had to climb over the rubble of collapsed houses and crawl under fallen electrical wires to get to her home.
Despite this, she said she was lucky because unlike the houses near the riverbank, her home was still standing.
The 70-year-old has lived in the village in Tanzhesi township for about 50 years.
She said she had never before experienced the ferocity of the torrential rain and flash flooding that struck Beijing from July 29 to Aug 2.
"I was at home all by myself on July 31, and all of a sudden the flood came. Muddy water started to rise fast. I wanted to call for help but there was no cellphone signal. All I could do was to climb up and cling to the window frame. The water quickly reached my knees," said Yang, whose house has been left covered in a thick layer of mud.
Fortunately, she was soon rescued by village officials who came in search of villagers.
To help them evacuate, Zhang Zhen, Party chief of the village, strung up a rope connecting higher ground on both sides of the river that runs through the village.
The officials and rescuers were then able to carry villagers, many of whom are elderly, to safety.
The houses near both sides of the river have been completely destroyed by the flood, making Nanxinfang one of the worst-hit villages in the township.
Despite this, all the villagers were evacuated. Some were taken to disaster relief shelters while others chose to stay with relatives.
The unprecedented rain caused the most devastating, widespread and economically costly natural disaster ever recorded in Mentougou, according to Yu Huafeng, Party chief of the district.
"Rebuilding will be necessary in 40 villages in the district. In Tanzhesi, 47 percent of the villages were hit by the disaster."
Despite returning to her home and looking around, Yang took nothing away with her.
"All the things are ruined and not worth salvaging at all. It's really sad to see my home like this but I am just happy to be alive," she said as officials from the emergency management department registered the damage to the houses in the village.
Jia Honglin, Party chief of Jiagou village, said the village square has been filled with heavy boulders washed down the mountain by the floodwaters.
"Boulders weighing tons have been pushed around so easily by the floodwaters just like someone playing basketball. That's how powerful the flood was," Jia said.
According to the Tanzhesi government, a special team has been set up to lead the disaster relief and reconstruction work of the six worst-hit villages, including Nanxinfang and Jiagou.
By Aug 9, all roads and electricity supply had been restored in the worst-hit villages.
Meanwhile, authorities are still busy fixing drinking water pipelines destroyed in the flood, it said.
"It's obvious that it will take quite some time to clear up the rubble and start reconstruction projects in the village," Yang said. "We need all the help available."
The death toll from the torrential rain and floods in Beijing has reached 33, including five rescuers. A total of 18 people are still missing, the city government said on Aug 9.