BEIJING – Beijing's mayor and a vice mayor have resigned, state media reported Wednesday, in what is likely a routine reshuffling but which comes amid public questioning of the city government's handling of rainstorms that left at least 37 dead in the capital.
The announcement came as more rain was forecast to hit the capital and amid signs that the death toll from last weekend's rain could jump higher. The official Xinhua News Agency reported that the top official in the hardest-hit district said their fatality and injury figures were still preliminary.
Xinhua said district head Qi Hong told reporters Tuesday that "Fangshan has suffered major losses, and the numbers are still in the process of being compiled." The district's fatality figures were never separately released but incorporated in the overall city toll.
On Wednesday, China Central Television showed newly obtained amateur video of the deadly flash flood that hit Fangshan Saturday, with pictures of a high river of brown water roiling through the streets with enough force to push cars along.
Outgoing Mayor Guo Jinlong had already been tapped for a promotion to the city's top position as Communist Party secretary, so his resignation was not unexpected. One of his vice mayors, Ji Lin, also resigned and state media reported earlier that Ji had taken up a position as head of the city's Political and Legal Committee.
The massive flooding was a major embarrassment for China's capital, which spent billions of dollars modernizing the city while apparently neglecting its drainage systems.
State media, analysts and ordinary netizens have piled on criticism of the city's handling of the crisis and its lack of preparedness.
Though Guo's promotion appears to be moving forward, the storm and its fallout are a taint on him and his mentor and ally President Hu Jintao.
Xinhua said Wang Anshun, a Beijing city official since 2007, was appointed acting mayor.
The Beijing Meteorological Bureau said heavy rain was expected for Beijing later Wednesday and Thursday, and warned of possible flash flooding and mudslides in the capital's mountainous outskirts, including already hard-hit Fangshan.