China braces for more floods as rivers surge, downpours continue
Drenched riverside towns in central and southern parts of China on Monday prepared for even more flooding as water levels in the country`s huge rivers surged and rainstorms continued, according to Xinhua.
In its latest update, the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said floods this year had left 823 people dead and another 437 missing as of Monday morning.
The direct economic loss had mounted to 154.1 billion yuan, more than double that of previous flood losses incurred in any single year since 2000.
Premier Wen Jiabao has urged local authorities to fully prepare for more floods and related disasters.
More than 370,000 soldiers and residents now have been mobilized to beef up the flood prevention efforts in eight provinces and municipalities along the country`s major rivers, the flood control headquarters said.
SOUTHWEST MUD FLOWS
Mud flows hit a remote riverside village in the southwestern province of Yunnan bordering Myanmar early Monday, leaving 11 people missing and another 11 injured, local officials reported.
The village, located in Drung-Nu Autonomous County of Gongshan near the region`s key waterway Nujiang River, is very difficult to reach after rain-triggered landslides and mud flows blocked the mountainous trails, frustrating rescue efforts.
Officials with the regional Lisu Autonomous Prefecture of Nujiang government said they were as yet unable to reach the injured.
In central Hubei Province, the government raised the flood alert to the second highest level and ordered relevant agencies and rescuers to remain vigilant.
The water flow rate into the Danjiangkou Reservoir from the Hanjiang River, the second largest branch of the Yangtze River, peaked at the highest in almost three decades, the provincial disaster relief headquarters said, describing the flood-control situation as "very severe."
The reservoir`s water level is expected to rise to at least 155 meters on Tuesday, about 6 meters above the reservoir`s danger level.
Authorities have ordered the operation of a flood buffer system -- the diversion of water flows into an emergency reservoir capable of holding 1.6 billion cubic meters of water.
Vice Governor Zhao Bin told a provincial disaster relief meeting on Monday that measures should be strengthened to ensure that "no dike breaches, no dam bursts and losses are kept to the minimum."
Water flow rates at the Three Gorges Dam, meanwhile, at the mainstream of the upper Yangtze River -- China`s longest river, rose Monday after a three-day lull.
The water flow rate hit 40,500 cubic meters per second Monday morning, and it is expected to continue to rise until it peaks on Tuesday.
Wu Daoxi, head of the Yangtze River Flood Control Office, told Xinhua that the water level at the reservoir behind the Three Gorges dam may reach 161.5 meters on July 30, a new record for the year and only about 13.5 meters under the reservoir`s maximum holding capacity.
Last Tuesday, the flow of the Yangtze River exceeded the rate during the 1998 floods that killed 4,150 people and was the highest since the dam became fully operational in 2009.
The dam managed to buffer the worst of the floods.
Wu has ordered engineers to increase the discharge volume of the dam, a move that would relieve pressure at the dam but pose challenges downstream.
Disaster prevention efforts were especially intensified in Hubei`s provincial capital of Wuhan City, the junction of the Hanjiang River and the Yangtze on the downstream of the Three Gorges Dam.
About 7,551 workers were mobilized to check the dikes and other flood-control systems in the central China city -- with 9.1 million residents -- around the clock.
WORLD HERITAGE THREATENED
Rains also raised the water levels of many branches of the Yellow River around its middle reaches. The Yellow River Flood Control and Drought Relief Office has ordered the clearing of waterways, evacuation of residents in low-lying areas and intensified monitoring of flood-waters.
At least 52 people were killed and another 20 missing in central China`s Henan Province as the swollen Yellow River and its branches have taken their toll.
Among the casualties, 37 killed were from Luoyang City, a culture-rich ancient capital and home to the World Heritage Longmen Grottoes.
The 1,500-year old Longmen Grottoes have been closed to public since last Saturday as waters from the Yi River have flooded tourists trails linking the caves.
Wang Qingru, a staff member with the Longmen Grottoes Research Institute, said the Buddha carvings and other cultural relics were not damaged. Authorities planned to re-open the site to public on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Elsewhere in China, authorities on Monday halted train services linking Lhasa, capital city of southwestern China`s Tibet Autonomous Region, to the country`s east coast as tracks passing through the mountainous area of Shaanxi were at risk from floods and landslides.
In southeast China`s Jiangxi Province, firemen and police are wading through knee-deep waters on the streets of the mountainous city of Jinggangshan to prevent further flooding. The city is known as the cradle of the Chinese Communist revolution.
Rainfall over the previous 24 hours reached 160 mm at 8 a.m. Monday and water has risen up to one meter deep in Ciping Town, the seat of the municipal government.