China Braces for New Floods as Yangtze Water Level Hits Record

Heavy rains sent the water level at China’s Yangtze River to a new high, raising the possibility of more seasonal floods after earlier ones left over 140 people dead or missing.

The Three Gorges Dam, which was built in Hubei province to generate electricity and mitigate flooding, is under pressure as more rains are expected in coming days, with millions of people already forced from their homes.

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Chinese state media said a second, and the strongest, wave of floods along the Yangtze River has arrived at the Three Gorges Reservoir and is reaching its peak on Saturday. The rate of inflow into the reservoir rose to 61,000 cubic meters per second, sending the water level to 160.17 meters and exceeding the flood limit by 15 meters.

Flooding since July has destroyed more than 12,000 homes, damaged 380,600 hectares of crops and affected over 20 million people in 24 provinces, mainly in southern China. Direct economic losses due to the worst flooding in decades are estimated at 49 billion yuan ($7 billion), according to the Ministry of Emergency Management.

Officials are sending crew to fill sandbags and detect weaknesses in embankments, and using helicopters to drop stones to block or slow waters along the Yangtze. Critics say over-development and over-building of poorly-designed water dams have worsened the seasonal flooding threat.

Authorities also raised the warning alarm for the Huaihe River, another major waterway to the north of Yangtze, China Daily reported Saturday. Huaihe saw its first flood of the year on Saturday amid torrential rains since July 10.

— With assistance by Sharon Chen, and Dong Cao

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