Emergency services were put on high alert in central China after further rainstorms filled an important lake on the flood-prone Yangtze River to dangerous levels, state media said Sunday.
The level of water in Hunan province’s Dongting lake, which acts as a buffer for the Yangtze River, rose to 31.71 meters — close to the 32-meter flood warning mark, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Emergency services are on alert with the lake’s water level still on the rise and predicted to hit the warning mark Monday, Xinhua said.
Experts warned that soil had been saturated, allowing more water to flow directly into the lake.
Since June 13, 64 counties and millions of people have been affected by floods in Hunan and a total of 476,000 hectares of farmland inundated, according to Xinhua.
Hunan is one of 18 provinces across China hit by this year’s floods, which have killed at least 543 people, mostly in June, with hundreds of others missing.
Over 69 million Chinese have been affected by the floods that have left 700,000 people homeless, destroyed 590,000 homes and demolished some 7.3 million hectares (18 million acres) of farmland, according to official statistics.
A Red Cross official said last week local residents in Hunan and Jiangxi province, which is also affected by flooding, could face more destruction if the water levels in Dongting Lake in Hunan and Poyang Lake in Jiangxi continued to rise.
Richard Grove-Hills, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in China, said heavy rain had filled both lakes, leaving little reserve space in them for water from the Yangtze River.
“If the Yangtze fills up, it won’t have that area (the lake) to flow into,” Grove-Hills said.
Environmental degradation also does not help, he said.
Dongting lake is silted and land reclamation, which has been carried out for the last 30 years, except the past few years, has resulted in a lot of land formerly used to absorb water becoming crop land, he said.
In nearby Hubei province, 336,000 people in three counties have been affected by the floods, said the China News Service.
Torrential rains have also caused 600 houses to collapse, flooded 39 major roads, causing a 100 million yuan (US$12 million) in economic losses to those counties, the report said.
Downpours are predicted to fall through Sunday night over central China.