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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Silver Lining in Storm

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VLADIVOSTOK, Far East — On Tuesday a typhoon hit the Primorye region, and amid the downpour and thunderclaps, an elderly man collapsed in the torrent rushing down Ulitsa Russkaya, the Vtoraya Rechka district's shopping boulevard.

Several hairdressers dashed from Pearl Beauty Salon and dragged the man, now in a state of shock, into the lobby, where they laid him on a bench. For several hours they phoned the ambulance, beautician Natalia Syuzyumova later said. But nobody could get through in a storm so severe it washed asphalt from roads and left the streets gridlocked.

Eventually, the poor gent ceased breathing. Now the beauticians were stuck with a cadaver on their hands. They began directing their pleas to the police. There was no way the women could lug a body to the morgue. What's more, a number of brave customers, apparently in need of water-repellent hairstyles, were showing up only to be met by a corpse in the lobby.

"Can you imagine?" Syuzyumova said. "We kept working here with a dead body lying in our foyer."

At the end of the workday, the beauticians made one last angry call to the police, saying they had to lock up and go home. A dispatcher said, "Just put him out on the porch. We'll come and pick him up."

After a moment's consideration, they deferred to the authorities. The corpse — one of nine known victims of the storm — was gone the next morning.

Summer is typhoon season in Vladivostok, a time when sunny days in which crowds throng waterfront swigging beer are interspersed with rainstorms, wind, thunder, lightning and water that bleeds through the seems in the prefab concrete housing. Apartments smell like mold, clothes never dry, umbrellas are blown inside out when you step out of doors. At such times the city shuts off the water, and everyone sets out basins on the balcony to gather rainwater to flush the toilet. People fill buckets at outdoor taps and wells, and lug them up however many flights of stairs they must hike to their apartments.

Now that the bad weather has passed for the moment, one is hard pressed to find a silver lining in the dark skies of a typhoon. Crops were lost and homes flooded. The roads are torn up and covered with rocks that washed from the hills. On Davydova, where I live, it wasn't until Friday that somebody shut off the broken main that was sending water down the street in such torrents, it washed away a concrete wall and most of the road.

But a closer reading of the news shows that this unpleasantness is only one side of the story. Adversity brings out a spirit of enterprise in Primorye's rugged citizenry, and it is impossible to be pessimistic about the region's economic future in the wake of a Pacific storm.

This is evident in small ways. The economy is sparked as road crews receive overtime pay and grubby apartment dwellers bathe in public saunas. Sales of mineral water skyrocket as the more privileged bathe in the local equivalent of Perrier, and stranded Chinese tourists boost the profits of Vladivostok's casinos.

But for a grander economic model, consider Novolitovsk, a village 15 kilometers from the seaport of Nakhodka. When about 500 cars were trapped on a section of road between two flooded riverbeds, everyone had little recourse but to wait it out, Komsomolskaya Pravda's local edition reported. A small hotel immediately jacked up its rates four times higher than normal.

Those who couldn't get a room put the best face on it, telling themselves rescuers would soon come. And they were right. Several brave bus drivers negotiated their clattering transportation fleet to the bank of the river that cut off the stranded citizens from Nakhodka. As the waters receded, the bus drivers yelled that they would offer a ride to anyone willing pay 500 rubles ($16.94) — about 10 times the normal rate for a short trip in a rural bus. Oh, and passengers would have to wade the river first.

Some citizens unhappily took the drivers up on their offer. Others waited for official rescue. Suddenly, a helicopter appeared in the sky. The people cheered. The chopper lighted.

As the pilot hopped out, the father of a 9-month-old baby said, "I have a small son. He has nothing to eat. I assume you'll take the women and children first.

The pilot replied, "First we'll save those who have money."

Russell Working is a freelance correspondent based in Vladivostok.