Four killed as strong winds batter Beijing

A delivery driver was killed by a falling tree.
PHOTO: Weibo

Strong winds battered Beijing on Sunday, killing four people and causing widespread disruption to flights and rail services.

The Chinese capital issued a blue gale warning, the lowest of four levels, which remained in place from the morning until 8pm on Sunday as average wind speeds hit 50-74km/h, (31-43.5 mph) with some gusts exceeding 100km/h.

Similar conditions were expected to continue into Monday and schools banned children from taking part in outdoor activities as a precaution.

One of those killed was a takeaway delivery driver who was hit by a falling tree in Xicheng district on Sunday afternoon.

Three others died when a wall of Dongzhimen Bridge in the north of the city collapsed due to strong winds.

One of the deceased was a 65-year-old construction worker from Hebei province who had just started working in the Chinese capital, The Beijing News reported.

The two others were aged 72 and 75 and were natives of Hebei and Henan provinces respectively.

The heavy winds also disrupted operations at Beijing Capital International Airport, which said more than 50 flights were diverted to other airports.

Video clips circulating online showed an Airbus 330 from Hainan Airlines struggling to stay balanced and rocking sideways as it came into land.

The aircraft eventually landed safely at the second attempt.

One of the passengers on a flight Beijing-bound that had to be diverted, told The Beijing News that passengers were terrified as the plane started rolling in the winds.

"It was really scary. You could feel the plane diving towards land at a very sharp angle," the unidentified passenger said.

"For three or four seconds the plane dropped like a [roller coaster] in a theme park and I felt the loss of gravity. The woman sitting in front of me immediately threw up."

The passenger said she was worried the plane might crash, but the flight eventually landed safely at Jinan airport in Shandong province.

Passengers on a separate Shanghai-to-Beijing flight operated by Hainan Airlines said the plane had to circle the Chinese capital for an hour before it could land.

"Everyone was nervous and I felt like I was on a rocking boat. Someone threw up," the woman said.

A video clip circulating online showed a woman on another flight from Kunming, in the southwestern province of Yunnan, saying that it had been like "riding a roller coaster" and she felt weak at the knees after the plane landed on Sunday afternoon.

The high winds also caused traffic jams and disrupted rail services, with two trains on the Beijing-Chengde line delayed by fallen trees.

At least 13 cars were damaged when the roof of a shopping centre in Chaoyang district was blown off, smashing windows and showering vehicles with debris.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post

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