“We ran for our lives”: historic floods destroy Beijing couple’s home

By Josh Arslan and Tingshu Wang

BEIJING (Reuters) -For years, Gao enjoyed a big apartment in scenic west Beijing and an E-Class Mercedes-Benz. He lost it all this week as a result of the most extreme rainfall to hit the Chinese capital in 140 years.

Raging floods, caused by storms that followed Typhoon Doksuri, destroyed his ground-floor apartment and washed his Merc away. His front window is now blocked by tree trunks and his living room filled with debris. The 60-year-old and his wife are in temporary housing.

Gao’s apartment is in Mentougou, about 40 km from the heart of Beijing, where the capital’s first two flood-related casualties were recorded.

The morning began as usual, until a mudslide swamped a nearby stream, and water started to pour into his yard.

“Then the balcony collapsed and the water came in,” Gao said, trying in his living room to salvage anything still edible from a refrigerator that had fallen onto its side.

“Me and my wife, we ran for our lives.”

Tree trunks and floating chunks of construction material sealed off his front window soon after their escape.

Water marks are still visible on the wall, just 30 cm (12 inches) shy of the ceiling. The clock was spared.

The storm killed at least 20 people in Beijing and surrounding Hebei province, causing the worst flooding in the vast Hai river basin since 1963. The rains have since moved to northeast China.

Thousands of people have been displaced and many, like Gao, have had their homes ruined. But Gao remains optimistic.

“You have to make do and live,” he said, sifting through cans of beer and muddied shirts. “As long as we’re still here, other things can be sorted.”

(Reporting by Josh Arslan and Tingshu Wang, writing by Albee Zhang; editing by Miral Fahmy and Kevin Liffey)