Beijing mayor set for promotion amid flood scandal

BEIJING (AP) — Beijing's mayor is apparently still on track to be promoted to China's powerful decision-making body despite public questioning of the city government's handling of floods that left at least 37 dead.

Mayor Guo Jinlong and one of his vice mayors resigned, state media reported Wednesday, in what is likely a routine reshuffling. The announcement came as more rain was forecast to hit Beijing and amid signs that the death toll from last weekend's storms could jump higher.

Saturday's 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 China's online community have piled on criticism of the city's handling of the crisis and its lack of preparedness.

Saturday's heavy rain was unusual in normally dry Beijing. On Wednesday evening, more heavy rain fell on the capital as forecast by the Beijing Meteorological Bureau, which warned of possible flash flooding and mudslides in the capital's mountainous outskirts, including already hard-hit Fangshan.

Beijing traffic police issued a notice on its website advising residents to avoid traveling far and to try to use public transport as much as possible, to reduce congestion. The Beijing water authority posted on its microblog a map of the city with flood-prone areas marked out and suggested traffic routes to avoid them.

Concerned about the potential havoc that might be caused by the heavy rain, some people left work earlier than usual. There were no immediate reports of flooding.

Outgoing Mayor Guo had already been tapped for a promotion to the city's top position as Communist Party secretary, so his resignation was not unexpected.

Though his promotion appears to be moving forward, the storm and its fallout are a taint on him and his mentor and ally President Hu Jintao. As Beijing's party secretary, Guo is almost certain to be named to the powerful 25-member Politburo at a party congress later this year.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Wang Anshun, a Beijing city official since 2007, was appointed acting mayor.

One of Guo's vice mayors, Ji Lin, also resigned. State media reported earlier that Ji had taken up a position as head of the city's Political and Legal Committee.

On Wednesday, China Central Television showed new amateur video of the deadly flash flood that hit the rural community of Fangshan on Saturday, with pictures of a high river of brown water roiling through the small town's streets with enough force to push cars along.

Xinhua quoted the top official in the hardest-flood-hit district as saying their fatality and injury figures were still preliminary.

"Fangshan has suffered major losses, and the numbers are still in the process of being compiled," district head Qi Hong told reporters Tuesday, according to Xinhua. The district's fatality figures were never separately released but incorporated in the overall city toll.

The Beijing News reported online that Li Shixiang, head of the Beijing government committee set up to deal with the disaster's aftermath, told members at their first meeting Wednesday that updated information about the missing and dead would be released "in due time."