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China

Three Gorges dam threatens to overflow

Reuters

China is bracing itself for more floods, with a potential new deluge on the Yangtze river, downstream from the huge Three Gorges Dam. Over 1,000 people are already dead or missing after what has been described as the worst flooding in decades. The Red Cross warns that food supplies for the next six months will be disrupted.

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Millions of people have been affected and more than 300,000 people had been moved out of the area, Qing Hui Gu, the Red Cross's regional disaster management coordinator for east Asia, who has just returned from Hubei province, told RFI. 

“At the moment we’re looking at relief supplies, tents and food supplies for these people living in temporary shelters,” he says.

 
Floods often happen at this time of year, he  says, but this year the rain has been so heavy that the river will probably not subside until September after the rainy season.

“The big problem," explains Qing, “is the millions of hectares of farmland which have been destroyed. We are concerned about the food for the next six months.”

Qing says the Chinese government has intensified its contribution to the relief effort with families receiving help. 

“In the long run, there will be huge needs for support after the lost harvest," he warns. "There will be huge amounts of money needed for China to help support people back into their normal life.”

On Friday, the three Gorges reservoir hit the 159-metre mark. That's the highest mark ever, according to the water resources ministry - and only 16 metres below its maximum capacity.

The dam is also one of the world’s largest hydroelectric project and is meant to be a barrier against floods, but authorities now face the delicate task of emptying the reservoir as fast as possible without creating more floods further down the stream.

Meanwhile, the Jiangxi government says the hard-hit eastern province downstream is at a “critical juncture” in terms of flood control.

Authorities have been ordered to increase flood prevention along the dozens of rivers that have been already affected by weeks of heavy rains. Many Chinese rivers have exceeded their danger marks.

In recent weeks, the output of the dam’s spill gates has risen from 25,000 cubic metres per second to 40,000 cubic metres.

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