China blows up dam on Yangtze river tributary to ease flooding

China blows up dam on Yangtze river tributary to ease flooding

Authorities in central China have blasted a dam to release surging waters behind it amid widespread flooding that has claimed scores of lives.

The dam on the Chu river in Anhui province – a tributary of the Yangtze river – was destroyed with explosives on Sunday morning, state broadcaster CCTV reported, after which the water level was expected to drop by 70cm (2ft).

The water released is being channelled into two storage ponds on a flood plain that can hold more than 60m cubic metres (2.1bn cubic ft) of water.

Water levels on many rivers have been unusually high this year because of torrential rains. Blasting dams and embankments to discharge water was an extreme response employed during China’s worst floods in recent years in 1998, when more than 2,000 people died and almost 3m homes were destroyed.

Last week, the gargantuan Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze opened three floodgates after the water level rose more than 15 metres (50ft) above flood level. Another flood crest is expected to arrive at the dam on Tuesday.

Elsewhere, soldiers and workers have been testing the strength of embankments and shoring them up with sandbags and rocks. On Saturday, firefighters and others finished filling in a 188-metre (620ft) break on Poyang Lake, China’s largest freshwater lake, that had caused widespread flooding across 15 villages and agricultural fields in Jiangxi province. More than 14,000 people were evacuated.

Seasonal flooding strikes large parts of China annually, especially in its central and southern regions, but has been especially severe this summer. More than 150 people have died or are missing in flooding and landslides brought on by the torrential rains – 23 of them since Thursday alone.

About 1.8 million people have been evacuated and direct losses attributed to flooding are estimated at more than 49bn yuan ($7bn), according to the Ministry of Emergency Management.

Major cities have been spared so far, but concern has risen over Wuhan and other downstream metropolises that are home to tens of millions of people.

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