A car is submerged at Lianhuaqiao on the West Third Ring Road on Thursday afternoon. [Photo/Xinhua]
Many people step off buses and taxis to make their way on foot
BEIJING - The sudden deluge on Thursday paralyzed the capital's traffic and disrupted the subway system during the evening rush hour.
By 4 pm, what would normally be a bright afternoon turned dim as dark rain clouds closed in with roaring thunder and flashes of lightning.
Rain soon bucketed down and flooded not only the streets, but also indoor areas.
Ankle-deep water formed a rapid waterfall rushing down the stairways at the Line 4 Taoranting station.
Many passengers tried cautiously to walk out from the slippery stairs and running torrent, and a few still headed into the station, watching their step to keep their balance in the strong flow of water.
Beijing Subway cut off electricity and halted transportation on parts of Line 1, Line 5 and Yizhuang subways because some stations experienced minor flooding. Electricity was temporarily shut off on parts of Line 13.
All 12 subway lines extended service time for one hour on Thursday night to handle the traffic.
Waterlogged roads slowed and even suspended traffic in some downtown areas and created gridlock on highways where outbound and inbound vehicles lined up in long queues near the capital's peripheral ring roads, according to the municipal traffic management bureau.
China Central Television reported at 8:30 pm that 42 crossroads had been soaked with water. The water level was estimated to have reached 1.5 meters near Lianhuaqiao crossroad.
The heavy rain caught many people unprepared and brought great inconvenience.
Passengers walk on the stairs of the flooded Taoranting Subway Station in Beijing, June 23, 2011. [Photo/Xinhua]
Ma Xuejing, a resident in Shijingshan district, had to return home halfway to her night shift in Chaoyang district.
"Walking is faster than any other means, and many people got out of buses and taxis to walk home," Ma said.
She waited for a bus to go to work, but found the raindrops pounding her legs later turned into hail. Her parents could not drive to pick her up as the engines of many vehicles had already shut down because of the flooding water.
Ou Deshun, a board member of the China Artist Association, found his office floor had turned into a lake under 5 centimeters of water within a quarter of an hour after the rain started.
"I did not notice how heavy the rain was until my feet touched the water and felt cold. Luckily the damage was minimal," Ou said.
Born a Beijinger and a long-time resident, Ou said he hadn't seen such intense rainfall in almost a decade.
Many Internet users blamed Beijing's weak drainage system for the massive traffic disruption, saying Thursday's emergency had revealed the inadequate capacity of the drainage facilities.