Repairs to Dongting Lake dike completed after late-night effort

2024-07-09 09:14:24China Daily Editor : Mo Honge ECNS App Download

Flood control and rescue efforts at Dongting Lake in Hunan province reached a crucial phase late on Monday night, with a breached dike sealed at around 10:30 pm.

The breach, 226 meters wide, occurred at around 5:48 pm on Friday at a dike in Tuanzhou, a township in Huarong county in the city of Yueyang, which is part of a dike network around Dongting Lake, China's second-largest freshwater lake.

Zhang Yingchun, Hunan's executive vice-governor, said more than 100,000 cubic meters of rock have been used in sealing off the breach, and crews had been sealing off 3.5 meters of the breach an hour.

Following the dike breach, a large volume of water from Dongting Lake rushed into the Tuanzhou dike region, flooding 47.6 square kilometers of the region's total area of 55 sq km.

At least 7,000 residents were evacuated after the dike burst.

Several local schools have been turned into temporary shelters, housing about 4,000 residents and providing essential items such as quilts, towels and buckets to disaster victims. Professional medical personnel are available around the clock to those who have been displaced.

"Our home was affected twice. Back in 1996, there was another flood and then this year. I think the resettlement process is now very good," Tuanzhou resident Cai Shusheng told China Global Television Network.

After the dike breach, an embankment considered the second line of defense was threatened on Monday.

The embankment, about 2 kilometers from the breached dike and 14.3 km long, separates Tuanzhou from the nearby township of Qiannan.

Multiple piping hazards — the movement of water through channels in the embankment — were observed, but they have been brought under control, local authorities said on Monday.

More than 300 police officers and firefighters have been working at the site to deal with the piping effect.

Zhu Dongtie, head of Hunan's Department of Water Resources, said the embankment has not been used to prevent flooding since 1996, and it was built to a much lower standard than the dike.

Twenty-four incidents of leakage and piping at the embankment have been dealt with, he said.

Despite all the difficulties and challenges, the embankment must be safeguarded, he added.

The dike breach followed 17 days of heavy rainfall in Hunan, the longest continuous period of heavy rain since 1961.

Clockwise from top: A villager displaced by a dike breach at Dongting Lake in Huarong county, Hunan province, takes a rest at a temporary resettlement site on Monday. TIAN WEITAO/FOR CHINA DAILY;Rescuers work to seal a leak at the second defense line in Huarong on Monday. YANG HUAFENG/CHINA NEWS SERVICE;People receive relief supplies donated from Shanghai at a relocation site on Monday. (XU XING/FOR CHINA DAILY)

The National Development and Reform Commission has allocated 200 million yuan ($27.5 million) to support disaster-affected parts of Hunan, including the counties of Huarong and Pingjiang in Yueyang, and in neighboring Jiangxi province.

In Jiangxi, the flood control situation remains severe due to prolonged high water levels on the Yangtze River and at Poyang Lake.

Water levels at Poyang Lake, China's largest freshwater lake, have been high since June 27, when the water level exceeded the warning level.

By the end of Sunday night, the water level at Xingzi Station, a key hydrological station on Poyang Lake, still exceeded the warning level by 2.19 meters.

Floods and other geological disasters have affected more than 1.6 million people in Jiangxi in cities such as Nanchang, Jiujiang and Jingdezhen, causing direct economic losses of 2.23 billion yuan.

According to the Ministry of Water Resources' Yangtze River Water Resources Commission, as the river basin's inflow recedes, stations in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze are expected to see water levels gradually fall below the warning level from mid to late July.

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