How Many People Really Died In Last Weekend's Beijing Floods?

Beijing Floods

Last week’s Beijing floods have been described as China’s Hurricane Katrina, with the worst rains in 60 years wrecking large areas of the city.

Despite government attempts to control media coverage, the backlash has been strong, especially on microblogging sites such as Weibo.

One key aspect of the controversy is the official death toll. Last weekend, Beijing officials said it that 37 had died in the floods, a number that many residents thought must be too low. Following an outcry that spread even to Chinese state media, Beijing officials announced today that 77 bodies had been found so far, the AP reports.

Residents — no doubt remembering the government’s foot dragging over the 2003 SARS outbreak — still aren’t convinced. Some have taken to trying to count the dead using social media and word of mouth — a Google document is now circulating with a list of those believed to be dead. State news agency Xinhua has released its own death toll of 95, according to WSJ, and not revised it after new official estimates came out.

Are the numbers we’ve heard so far still too low? Hopefully not, but the government’s refusal to be transparent has resulted in wild rumours, some as high as 378. Bill Bishop of the excellent Sinocism blog has reportedly heard one story about a 200 person nursing home being completely wiped away by the floods.

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