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2018-06-11 12:17:37

Following several days of torrential rain in southern China, residents of Guangzhou and neighboring Foshan are concerned that the cities’ power poles and electric bus stop signs may have been responsible for the deaths of at least four citizens.

One of three cases reported over the weekend involved two women — a mother and her daughter — who were electrocuted in Foshan, Guangdong province, on Friday while standing at a bus stop consisting of a large electronic sign with an awning overhead. Both later died at a local hospital. On Saturday, the Chancheng District publicity department confirmed to The Paper, Sixth Tone’s sister publication, that the pair had died of electrocution, and that afterward, power had been cut to all bus stops in flooded areas of the city and inspectors dispatched to prevent further cases of electrocution.

Also on Friday, a 17-year-old boy collapsed while crossing a flooded street in Guangzhou, the provincial capital. According to a coroner’s report viewed by Sixth Tone, the cause of death was electrocution. The boy’s father, surnamed Chang, told The Paper he believes a traffic light’s power box located at ground level was responsible for his son’s death: He provided photos of mud and silt inside the box, indicating that it had been submerged.

A third case, also in Guangzhou, involved an unnamed victim found near an electric pole. The cause of death has not been confirmed.

Despite assurances from government departments that the cases are being handled, netizens are worried, in part because of content circulating on social media. One graphic video posted Saturday on Weibo shows two bodies floating face-down within the flooded enclosure of a bus stop, just below a brightly-lit electronic noticeboard. The user who posted the video said it had been filmed in Guangzhou and advised people to stay away from such equipment because of the risk of electrocution.

When reached on Monday, Guangzhou’s publicity department declined to comment on the cases and suggested that Sixth Tone contact local bus companies, whom it said was in charge of the electronic signs. But a receptionist at Guangzhou Bus, a state-owned enterprise, told Sixth Tone that such spaces are managed and maintained by advertising companies whose names he declined to provide.

The Guangzhou office of China Southern Power Grid, another state-owned enterprise, posted on its Weibo microblog account on Monday that no causalities resulting from any of the power points it manages had occurred during the typhoon period. However, the police of Guangzhou’s Baiyun District wrote on their Weibo account that electrocution had not been ruled out in the 17-year-old’s death. “The exact reason is still being investigated by forensic doctors and experts from local power departments,” the post read.

Multiple calls to China Southern Power Grid’s Guangzhou office went unanswered on Monday.

A 25-year-old office worker who lives in Guangzhou told Sixth Tone that it was “raining cats and dogs” on Friday. Though she had not personally witnessed any casualties from electrocution or drowning, the woman said, videos of such cases had flooded her groups on social app WeChat along with the heavy rain in the city. “The water in the streets didn’t abate until midnight,” she said.

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: Two women cross a flooded street following heavy rains in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, June 8, 2018. Yang Yaohua/IC)