Update: Closure work starts at breached dike of Dongting Lake in Central China
Published: Jul 06, 2024 12:57 PM
An aerial drone photo taken on July 6, 2024 shows rescuers blocking a dike breach of Dongting Lake in Tuanzhou Township, Huarong County under Yueyang City, Central China's Hunan Province. Photo: Xinhua

An aerial drone photo taken on July 6, 2024 shows rescuers blocking a dike breach of Dongting Lake in Tuanzhou Township, Huarong County under Yueyang City, Central China's Hunan Province. Photo: Xinhua

Photo: CFP

Photo: CFP

Rescue forces gathered in Tuanzhou dike alongside Dongting Lake in Central China's Hunan Province started to close the breach on Saturday afternoon, after lake waters burst through on Friday due to earlier downpours and prolonged inundation. No casualties have been reported so far.

The breach once reached 226 meters in length in the morning, with a water level difference of 0.17 meters. Due to the water level differences in and outside the breach and water flow, it was difficult to close then. 

The breach was 220 meters in length as of Saturday noon with a smaller water level difference. Some 47.64 square kilometers of land was inundated, equaling about 6,672 standard football pitches, with an average water depth of 5 meters. The inundated areas accounted for 92.5 percent of the entire Tuanzhou enclosure, although the safety zone had not been inundated, officials noted at a press briefing on Saturday. 

With personnel and equipment on standby, closure work started in the afternoon, which is expected to take 4 days, the Paper reported. 

A severe dike piping was identified 4pm on Friday afternoon; after that consolidation of the dike and evacuation were carried out at the same time. Despite consolidation, the dike breached at 5:48 pm, local officials said.  

Tuanzhou enclosure was built in 1977, and last time the dike breached was in 1996.

As of Saturday, 5,755 local residents from Tuanzhou (dike) township, Yueyang's Huarong county have been evacuated without reports of casualties. Hunan provincial and Yueyang city authorities have mobilized 2,100 personnel, 160 boats to assist with emergency efforts. Some 1,000 tents, 3,200 folding beds, cotton-padded mattress and blankets have been allocated for settlement of relocated residents, per media reports. 

The Global Times learned from the Yueyang Lantian rescue team on Saturday that they have been evacuated from the frontline after ensuring that no people were stranded in the impacted area. The Lantian rescue team entered Tuanzhou township on Friday afternoon with 300 personnel and 70 boats. 

President Xi Jinping urged all-out rescue and relief work to safeguard people's lives and property after the breach. Xi is on a state visit to Tajikistan when he issued the instructions. 

Xi emphasized that since China entered the main flood season, some areas in the country have experienced heavy rainfall for a prolonged duration, leading to a severe flood control situation. The prolonged water erosion of embankments may result in dangerous situations, posing significant risks and hidden dangers.

Premier Li Qiang ordered that all efforts should be made to deal with the emergency, control the development of the situation, properly accommodate the affected people and strengthen the patrol of reservoirs and embankments.

In line with Xi's orders, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Emergency Management on Saturday pre-allocated 540 million yuan ($74 million) in natural disaster relief funds to support Hunan and other regions in carrying out flood, geological disaster, and forest fire relief work. 

Of the funds, 503 million yuan has been set aside for Hunan, Anhui, Jiangxi, Heilongjiang, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Hubei, Chongqing and Guizhou provinces and regions to conduct rescue and relocation, risk points checks and reconstruction; an additional 37 million yuan has been allocated to Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Shanxi Province to deal with forest fires. 

Central authorities, after consulting local officials, have allocated 800 personnel, 146 vehicles and 82 boats to aid the battle against the floods, and assigned the China Anneng Construction Group's base in Changsha, capital city of Hunan Province, to send 50 personnel with 30 sets of equipment to close the breach. 

Waterborne rescue forces equipped with 300 tons of gravel, 10,000 bags, 500 meters of steel wires and 150 meters of ropes have arrived at the breach. Also drones and remote-sensing satellites have been prepared to collect information of the breach. 

Another 5,000 disaster relief packages for families have been sent in addition to 56,000 pieces of supplies allocated earlier. 

Dongting Lake is the second largest fresh water lake in China and an important natural reservoir for  the Yangtze River. With 3,471 kilometers of dikes and 226 enclosures of various sizes, it represents a crucial "battlefield" against floods in Hunan. 

Following intensive downpours in June, Dongting Lake has maintained high water levels for weeks. The Chenglingji station, an indicator station, has maintained "warning" water level since late June. 

The prolonged high water levels means the dikes became inundated, saturated with water and can collapse at any moment, demanding routine and frequent checks to identify risk points early and address them quickly, the Global Times learned from experts on flood control. 

The water levels in the Yangtze River maintain exceeding warning marks in middle and lower reaches and the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) forecast on Thursday a more complex flood control situation in China in July with rain belts moving northward and westward.

The Huaihe River mainly located in East China provinces, Haihe River in Tianjin Municipality and Songhua River in Northeast China shall be prepared for possible floods caused by heavy precipitation, according to the CMA. The southern provinces and regions as well as the Yangtze delta are about to face extreme heat waves.