Swollen river threatens major city in central China
Workers and soldiers were patching up dykes in Hunan province after water in the Xiang river, which passes through Changsha city, where over six million people live, surged to its highest level in a decade.
The surge rose 2.5 metres (over eight feet) above the river's danger marks, the third highest reading since 1953 when records of water levels began, the civil affairs ministry said.
"Water levels on the lower reaches of the Xiang river are rising and will not go down, and will surpass flood warning levels again," the flood headquarters of the ministry warned.
Authorities ordered reservoirs in the upper reaches of the river to store up more water in an effort to reduce the surging flood crests, it said.
Although heavy downpours were not expected around Changsha on Friday, more than 180 millimetres (over seven inches) of rain fell in parts of Hunan on Wednesday and Thursday, ensuring that rivers would remain swollen, it added.
Overall, downpours in south and central China were receding Friday, it said, but heavy rain continued to fall in parts of Jiangxi, Fujian, and Zhejiang provinces and Guangxi region, where major flooding has already taken place.
At least 211 people have died and 119 are missing since torrential rains triggered flooding and landslides in south and central China from June 13 to June 24, the ministry said.
In all, 377 people have been killed and 147 more have gone missing in floods across China so far this year, it added -- up 12 fatalities from a day earlier.
In hard-hit Jiangxi province, which neighbours Hunan to the east, over 100,000 people were evacuated from Fuzhou city after a dyke on the Fuhe river burst its banks this week, deluging surrounding residential areas.
Water levels on 26 rivers in Jiangxi remained above warning levels on Friday as workers scrambled to enforce dykes, the provincial government said.
Despite already swollen rivers, authorities were forced to release water from 10 major reservoirs in the province where levels were also surpassing danger marks, it added.
The scale of the disaster in Jiangxi prompted Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to fly into Fuzhou on Thursday to inspect rescue and relief operations -- his second visit to a flood-hit area in a week.
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