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Country Soaked in Torrential Downpours

Heavy rains lashed huge swathes of the country Wednesday, causing widespread chaos and at least one death in Beijing.

About 20 provinces and municipalities were struck by gale-force winds, thunderstorms and lightning, the State Meteorological Center (SMC) said.

One person was killed by lightning in Beijing while in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, heavy rain killed two in Bishan County, and left one missing.

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

In the morning, the urban areas of Beijing saw an average of 30 millimeters of rainfall with the maximum reaching 113 millimeters, local weathermen said.

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

About 110 incoming and outgoing flights were delayed at Beijing Capital International Airport, and some were diverted to neighboring Tianjin Municipality or Taiyuan, capital of north China's Shanxi Province.

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

Many city dwellers woke in the early hours to the sound of cracking thunder and streaks of lightning.

Zhang Wei'an, a farmer living in Zhangliaoying Village in Beijing's northwestern Yanqing County, was struck down 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 rain in a beacon tower in Juyong Pass, a scenic spot of the Great Wall in Beijing, but none was seriously injured.

In east China's Anhui Province, some 300,000 people were affected on Tuesday when the downpour brought a record 260 millimeters of precipitation in just six hours to Suzhou, a city north of the Huaihe River, according to reports yesterday.

The amount of rainfall exceeded 100 millimeters in 10 hydrometric stations set in cities north of the Huaihe River, Jianghuai Morning Post said.

(China Daily August 4, 2005)

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