China flood threat critical

2011-06-20 09:59

Beijing - More than 70km of dikes are close to overflowing in a city in eastern China, the country's flood authority said on Monday, a day after a senior official warned a critical point had been reached in battling seasonal floods.

Heavy rains pounded Zhejiang province over the weekend and the level of a river that passes through Lanxi city has risen sharply, said Zhao Fayuan, deputy director of the flood control headquarters.

The level of Lanjiang River has now hit 34m, the highest since 1966, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

Several sections of the dikes in Lanxi city are barely holding, Zhao said, according to Xinhua. More than 20 000 people could be affected if the dikes are breached, he said.

The country's flood control headquarters advised Lanxi officials to relocate all residents near the dikes that are at risk of overflowing, and to repair them immediately.

More rain

Flooding in eastern and southern China this month has triggered landslides, cut off power and telecommunications and left more than 180 people dead or missing. Another five people were killed on Sunday and one remains missing after surging floodwaters swept them away in their southwest villages, Xinhua said on Monday.

China's minister for water resources said on Sunday that the country was entering a crucial period for flood control as severe floods triggered by heavy rains threaten southern areas.

It is likely that more frequent and more intense downpours will continue, Chen Lei told a meeting in Beijing to discuss flood-control measures, Xinhua reported.

He urged local authorities to improve weather forecasting and ensure dikes, reservoirs and dams are safe.

However, while the deadly flooding continues, a persistent drought is still plaguing five provinces in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River. It has left 630 000 people without safe drinking water and affected 4.8 million hectares of farmland, Chen said.