Measures in place to battle possible torrents, at-risk residents relocated
Tianjin has relocated more than 80,000 residents from flood-prone areas, as a large volume of upstream water flows toward the city, posing a major challenge to authorities to prevent damage.
Located by the Bohai Sea, Tianjin covers the estuaries of three major rivers in North China's Haihe River Basin, including the Daqing, Yongding and Ziyaxin.
Unprecedented heavy rainfall since the end of last month has sent floodwaters moving toward Tianjin after the torrents passed through upstream regions last week, including some cities in neighboring Hebei province. Flooding red alerts have already been issued.
Tianjin has taken multiple measures to prepare for the floodwaters, including reinforcing riverside dikes, dredging waterways and relocating large swathes of residents.
The majority of relocations are from Xiqing and Jinghai districts, which are covered by the Dongdian water detention area. The low-lying area, which helps divert and retard floodwaters, was put into use on Aug 1.
The area covers 379 square kilometers, with 100 sq km in the two districts of Tianjin. The remainder of the detention area is in Hebei.
According to a notice from Jinghai district's flood prevention authority, all the residents in Taitou, Duliu and Wangkou townships were relocated before Thursday.
More than 30,000 people from 23 villages have been relocated, according to ThePaper.cn.
Residents of two other districts, Wuqing and Beichen, were earlier relocated, as they were also in flood-prone areas.
After residents were moved to safe areas, rescue teams started patrolling villages and riverbanks to prevent people from returning to their homes.
The dikes of rivers in the city were also strengthened and raised to reduce the threat of rising floodwaters, the report said.
The head of the floodwaters entered Tianjin on Friday and it would take two or three days for the water level to peak, Yang Bang, an official with the hydrographic office of the Haihe River Water Conservancy Commission, told ThePaper.cn.
The commission is based in Tianjin and is under the administration of the Ministry of Water Resources.
It will take a further 12 to 15 hours for the floodwaters to run into the estuaries and then flow into Bohai Sea, Yang said.
As of Monday, cornfields in some villages had been submerged by floodwater. "If there is no more rain, it will take more than two months for the floodwaters to recede from the flood detention area," Yang said.
However, the downtown area of Tianjin would not be flooded as Yongdingxin River to the north and Duliujian River to the south, had been expanded in the past to deal with flooding, said Yang Zhigang, head of the commission's flood and drought disaster prevention department.
"The rivers play important roles in preventing floodwater running into the city," he said.
Although the floodwater in the Haihe River Basin is receding, there are still risks, Yang Zhigang added.
"People that have been relocated should not go back to the flood-prone areas arbitrarily, given that the receding of floodwaters in the flood detention areas will need a long time," he said.
To allow floodwaters to subside smoothly, local flood prevention authorities should remove obstacles in river channels such as some structures and low bridges, he added.
According to Yang Zhigang, dikes in the country's northern areas have not been tested by major floods for a long time. So there may be some hidden dangers when suddenly faced with a large flood, such as collapsing structures, especially in areas soaked by water for a long time.
"Enough personnel are needed to strengthen patrols of such areas," he said.
Xie Yan, the chief economist of the State Grid Corp's Tianjin Jinghai branch said, "We have strengthened the patrols of ultrahigh voltage transmission lines near the villages, and are well prepared to do rush repairs".
The company has set up 24-hour services, including patrolling vehicles and increased numbers of engineers, to deal with any possible power cuts caused by the incoming floods.