Chongqing, China (AFP) July 23, 2010
China, already reeling from deadly floods, braced Friday for a potential new deluge on the Yangtze downstream from the huge Three Gorges Dam as its reservoir's level hit a high for the year.
The warnings came as officials sought to dampen expectations that the dam could completely tame the swelling river amid the worst flooding in a decade, which has left more than 1,100 people dead or missing.
The Three Gorges reservoir's water level reached its highest point in this year's floods, the water resources ministry said, adding it hit the dam's 158.8-metre mark Friday. State press reports put its maximum at 175 metres.
Huge amounts of water continued to thunder out of its massive spill-gates and the government of Jiangxi said the hard-hit eastern province downstream was at a "critical juncture" in flood control.
It ordered authorities to redouble flood prevention work along dozens of lakes and rivers already swollen by weeks of heavy rains.
"Over the next 20 to 30 days, the high water level of the Yangtze River's Jiujiang section and Poyang Lake will continue. The flood situation is very grim," the provincial government said in a statement.
Poyang Lake, China's largest freshwater lake and linked to the Yangtze, is one of hundreds of major Chinese lakes and rivers whose water levels have exceeded their danger marks. Jiujiang is a city of about five million people.
Authorities elsewhere in the region issued similar warnings.
The state flood control authority said the toll from this year's floods had risen to 742 dead and 367 missing.
Vice Water Resources Minister Liu Ning this week called the Three Gorges Dam -- the world's largest hydroelectric project -- a "pillar" against new floods, but other officials began to emphasise its limits.
"The Three Gorges Dam is not a panacea," Wei Shanzhong, deputy director of the Yangtze River Water Resources Commission, was quoted Friday by state media as saying.
He said authorities faced a delicate task in coming weeks in emptying the rising reservoir as fast as possible without triggering disastrous floods in already waterlogged communities downstream.
The flooding has triggered fears of a repeat of disastrous 1998 floods that were the country's worst in recent memory.
Twelve years ago record rains swelled the Yangtze, China's longest river, and many tributaries, causing floods that killed at least 4,150 people and forced the evacuation of 18 million.
This year, heavy rain initially caused widespread flooding in eastern and southern China, roughly centred on the Yangtze. But the rains recently shifted to the river's upper reaches, threatening a new flood crest downstream.
Heavy rains upstream had raised the amount of water pouring into the Yangtze to 70,000 cubic metres per second, the government has said -- 10,000 cubic metres more than the peak seen in the 1998 floods.
The output at the dam's spill-gates has risen sharply from 25,000 cubic metres per second in recent weeks to 40,000 cubic metres.
The Hubei provincial government said several flood-hit areas had been put on "super-alert" in anticipation of increased water flow. It added that the large Danjiangkou reservoir had reached its flood-control maximum.
However, state television said the flood crest had poured on Friday through Hubei's Dongting Lake without incident. The lake is one of China's largest and also has swelled to warning levels.
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Singapore (AFP) July 22, 2010
The Singapore government's measures to reduce the impact of recent floods on homes and businesses were insufficient, the island's founding father Lee Kuan Yew said in remarks published Thursday. Lee, commenting on Wednesday after Singapore suffered three bouts of severe flooding since mid-June, added that constant rain and limited land area made it difficult to totally prevent floods in the ... read more
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