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China prepares to flood towns to lower rain-swollen lake

Authorities were evacuating 68,000 residents around a lake on the rain-swollen Huai River in eastern China on Wednesday.
PTI | By Associated Press, Beijing
PUBLISHED ON JUL 10, 2003 09:20 AM IST

Authorities were evacuating 68,000 residents around a lake on the rain-swollen Huai River in eastern China on Wednesday as they prepared to divert its waters by flooding five towns, disaster officials said.

Flooding along the Huai has forced more than 600,000 people from their homes, and the river was rising Wednesday amid torrential rains, local officials said. They said at least nine people drowned this week and more than 900,000 were stranded by high water. "The situation is getting more severe," said Wang Qiang, an official of the anti-flood headquarters for the eastern province of Anhui, which has suffered the worst flooding.

Authorities were preparing to blow up dikes to lower the level of Hongze Lake in Jiangsu province, which borders Anhui, said an official of the provincial antiflood headquarters. He said the lake was 63 centimeters (25 inches) above its danger level. In extreme emergencies, Chinese authorities destroy dikes that hold back rivers and lakes, diverting their waters into farming areas and sacrificing smaller towns in order to reduce the strain on barriers protecting cities. Millions of Chinese live on land that has been reclaimed over centuries with dikes that hem in rivers and lakes.

Authorities haven't decided when to blow up the dikes on Hongze Lake, said the provincial official, who wouldn't give his name. Officials already have flooded towns in several areas along the Huai in order to divert its waters. The river, China's fourth-longest, flows through densely populated industrial and farming areas in several provinces.

China suffers flooding every summer rainy season. More than 200 deaths have been reported in mudslides and flooding since the start of June in central and southern China.

Hongze Lake, China's fourth-largest freshwater lake, already was above the level reached in 1991 when it caused devastating flooding, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

In Anhui, 460,300 people have been evacuated from diversion areas or villages threatened by flooding, said Wang Xintao, an official of the provincial civil affairs bureau.

Four people drowned this week in Anhui after falling into flood waters, Wang said. He said 18,487 injuries have been reported, mostly diarrhea and eye inflammations caused by contaminated water. In Jiangsu and Henan provinces, which also lie on the Huai, a total of five people were reported drowned in floodwaters. In Jiangsu, more than 140,000 people have been evacuated, said an official of the provincial civil affairs bureau. He refused to give his name.

The Huai was above danger levels along its entire length, and more than 600,000 people were guarding dikes, Xinhua said. It said anyone caught violating disaster regulations would be "punished seriously," though it gave no details.

On Tuesday, paramilitary troops repaired a collapsing dike on the Chuhe River in eastern China, state media said. The reports said that averted flooding that could have threatened the major city of Nanjing and cut the rail line linking Beijing to Shanghai, China's business capital and biggest city.

A front-page photo in the China Daily newspaper showed troops in rain-soaked uniforms heaving straw bags of earth onto the dike.

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