China raises Beijing storm toll to 77 after outcry

By Gillian Wong

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, July 26 2012 8:20 a.m. MDT

Although China can be tight-lipped when it comes to mass casualties from natural and manmade disasters, it has improved since 2003 when its lack of transparency during the SARS outbreak was blamed for public panic. Death tolls are usually released in a more timely fashion, but the government still routinely withholds the names and biographical details of the deceased, making it hard for citizens to check their accuracy.

The death toll disputes were playing out against the backdrop of an ill-timed power shift, with both Beijing's mayor and vice mayor resigning on Wednesday. Some speculated that the outgoing mayor, Guo Jinlong, who is expected to join the central government's top 25-member politburo in the fall, might have been shedding his mayoral duties in order to avoid further taint from the scandal. But that seemed unlikely since Guo has actually moved into the city's most senior post, Beijing's Communist Party secretary.

The reshuffle was not unexpected but the timing was likely to deepen the public's frustration over the city's lack of leadership and accountability.

More rain was expected for much of north China Thursday, the Beijing Meteorological Bureau said.

Associated Press writers Alexa Olesen and Isolda Morillo and researchers Zhao Liang and Flora Ji contributed to this report.

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