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Torrential Downpours Hit China

Heavy rainstorms lashed huge swathes of the country yesterday, causing widespread chaos and at least two deaths in Chongqing and one in Beijing. About 20 provinces and municipalities were struck by gale-force winds, thunderstorms and lightning, according to a State Meteorological Center official.

"The heavens opened over most of China, particularly northern provinces, and we entered a new flood season," said He Lifo, urging authorities to be fully prepared for the worst.

Heavy rain caused the deaths of two people in Bishan County of southwest China's Chongqing Municipality and left one missing, whilst one man in Beijing was killed by lightning.

In the morning, urban areas of Beijing saw an average of 30 millimeters' rainfall and a maximum of 113 millimeters, said local weather watchers.

More than 2,500 police were sent onto the capital's streets to ease traffic jams as rain pelted the morning rush hour, the worst rainstorm the city has seen this summer.

About 110 incoming and outgoing flights were delayed at Beijing Capital International Airport, with some diverted to neighboring Tianjin Municipality or Taiyuan, capital of the northern province of Shanxi.

Following the thunderstorm, a flying ban was imposed over Beijing's skies for half an hour.

Zhang Wei'an, a farmer living in Zhangliaoying Village in the capital's northwestern Yanqing County, was struck by lightning at his house as he was answering a phone call. His family rushed him to a nearby hospital but he died there last night.

Lightning also struck 10 tourists seeking shelter from the rain in a beacon tower in Juyong Pass at the Great Wall, but none were seriously injured.

In east China's Anhui Province on Tuesday, a record 260 millimeters of rain fell in just six hours on Suzhou City, north of the Huaihe, and rainfall exceeded 100 millimeters at 10 hydrometric stations in cities north of the river, the Jianghuai Morning Post said yesterday.

(China Daily August 4, 2005)

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