Drainage work begins after dike breach sealed

2024-07-10 08:12:26China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Villager Zhang Jun looks on with tears in her eyes at her house submerged in floodwaters in Tuanzhou township, Huarong county, Hunan province, on Tuesday. (TIAN WEITAO/FOR CHINA DAILY)

Emergency crews have started to drain floodwaters at a township beside Dongting Lake in Hunan province after a dike breach was sealed off on Monday night.

The National Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters and the Ministry of Emergency Management have dispatched a first batch of 397 rescue workers and 47 pieces of equipment from provinces including Hubei, Fujian and Sichuan to support the drainage efforts in the inundated Tuanzhou township.

Firefighters from the city of Yueyang arrived at the dike at 7 am on Tuesday to start pumping.

The breach occurred in Tuanzhou on Friday afternoon when water began flowing through channels in the dike and expanded to a 226-meter gap after failed salvage attempts.

An area of 47.6 square kilometers — 92.5 percent of the township — has been flooded. There have been no reports of casualties.

About 210 million cubic meters of floodwater needs to be pumped out, according to local authorities.

Yao Wei, a director at the State-owned Changjiang Institute of Survey, Planning, Design and Research Corporation, said he expected it would take about 17 days for the water to be pumped out.

If the water is discharged too soon, it might have an impact on the safety of the embankment dividing Tuanzhou from nearby Qiannan township, so the water level should drop less than 30 centimeters a day, he told China Central Television.

More leaks have been reported in the embankment, so authorities have started to build a third embankment.

They have mapped out plans for a "third-line of defense" and construction has started with seven different teams, according to Zeng Qiming, director of Hunan's flood and drought disaster prevention affairs center.

Min Heyuan, 65, a villager in Qiannan, patrols the embankment from 6 pm to morning.

"It is the responsibility of us local people to go and check the embankment, which protects our safety, houses and properties," he said.

In July 1996, when a similar breach happened in Tuanzhou, the embankment did not hold, so Qiannan was also flooded.

"It is our responsibility to make sure history does not repeat itself," Min said.

"We feel safe seeing all those rescuers working tirelessly to help and protect us, and we need to also do our part."

All 7,680 people living in Tuanzhou have been transferred to safe places, with around 4,000 of them resettled at five schools in the county, while the rest sought help from friends and family.

Zeng Yuanxiu, 85, said she probably would not have made it without the assistance of neighbors and rescuers, who helped her to transfer to safety.

She and her late husband were among the first batch of residents in Tuanzhou when the township was set up in 1977.

"I was horrified because we had a dike breach in 1996, and as I was too old to help myself," she said. "I had to rely on others."

Zeng Yuanxiu has been transferred to a vocational school, where volunteers have offered daily necessities and extensive care.

"I have strong feelings for Tuanzhou and I want to go back when the floodwater recedes," she said.

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