Breached dike of Dongting Lake to be repaired by Tuesday noon
101.6 meters of breached embankment restored as of Sunday evening as aids to the disaster-stricken area stepping up
Published: Jul 07, 2024 10:28 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

Repairs to a breached dike in Central China's Hunan Province that forced thousands of local residents to leave their homes are expected to be completed by Tuesday noon, according to government authorities. Tuanzhou dike alongside the Dongting Lake, China's second-biggest freshwater lake, burst and unleashed floodwater brought by torrential rain following failed emergency repair efforts on Friday afternoon. 

The dike breach that occurred on Friday was initially about 10 meters wide, but drastically increased overnight, widening to 226 meters by Saturday evening.

Rescue forces dispatched to the dike located in Huarong county, Yueyang city, Hunan, started to repair the breach on Saturday afternoon. As of Sunday evening, the gap had been narrowed by 101.6 meters. As of the press time, repair work is still underway. 

Zhang Yingchun, executive vice governor of Hunan Province, said during a press briefing on Sunday afternoon that it was expected the repair work would be completed by noon on Tuesday. 

The Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee recently issued a notice to mobilize Party members to take the lead in safeguarding people's lives and property. 

After the dike breach occurred, a large volume of water from Dongting Lake rushed into the Tuanzhou dike region, flooding 47.64 square kilometers out of the region's total area of 55.03 square kilometers. 

More than 700 county, township, and village officials were mobilized to conduct house-to-house inspections and urgently relocate affected residents within the embankment to safety zones or to schools in the county for centralized resettlement. As of Saturday, 5,755 local residents had been evacuated without immediate reports of trapped individuals or casualties.

A local resident from Huarong county living 15 kilometers away from the dike breach told the Global Times on Sunday that while the dike near her own home was still secure, every family in the village has been patrolling along the dike every day. They have also made preparations for evacuation in case of a breach. 

According to the China Anneng Group First Engineering Bureau Co under China Anneng Construction Group Corporation Limited, one of the main forces undertaking the repair operation at the breach, since all necessary preparations had been made prior to narrowing the breach, the project should ideally take about four days. The company noted, however, that actual completion time depends on many factors, including transportation of materials such as stone. 

The group launched an emergency response on Friday and dispatched 350 professional rescue personnel and 98 sets of equipment to the scene to carry out the mission. 

As of 10 am on Sunday, the water level at Dongting Lake had dropped to 33.42 meters from 34.08 meters on Friday. Due to the dropping water levels, the water in the Tuanzhou dike region is flowing back into the lake through the breach. The repair work is currently progressing in an orderly manner, but the difficulty of the work is anticipated to increase. 

An official from the local bureau of finance in Huarong county told the Global Times on Sunday that all the affected residents have been resettled at local schools and have received sufficient aid and support from authorities at all levels. At the moment, what is most urgently needed are materials to repair the breach, such as stone. 

Apart from 5,000 disaster relief packages for families in addition to 56,000 pieces of supplies allocated earlier, a disaster relief work group was dispatched to direct enterprises and social organizations to take prompt actions to support the disaster-stricken area. 

Relevant enterprises have urgently allocated 470,000 packages of disaster relief donation supplies to Huarong and related foundations have provided nearly 80,000 donated relief supplies including family emergency kits, daily necessities, self-heating food and bottled water to ensure the basic living conditions of the affected residents.

The National Development and Reform Commission has allocated 200 million yuan ($27.52 million) from the central budget to support the emergency restoration of damaged schools, hospitals, and water conservancy and flood control facilities in the disaster-affected areas of Hunan (including the counties of Huarong and Pingjiang in Yueyang city) and adjacent Jiangxi provinces, in a bid to help the disaster-stricken areas quickly return to normal.

Apart from the dike repair work, on-site rescuers are simultaneously racing against time to strengthen a levee nine kilometers away from the dike breach. The 14.35-kilometer-long levee is viewed as the "second line of defense" between the Tuanzhou embankment and the next embankment to reduce flooding downstream by slowing the flow of water in the event of a breach or overflow of one of the main dikes.

Since Friday, rescue forces made up of firefighting units, armed police and militia have been continuously reinforcing the levee by covering it with sandbags filled with gravel.