Dams and Landslides

China’s Three Gorges Says Yangtze Flooding Exceeds 1998 Level

(July 20, 2010) China’s Three Gorges Dam, the largest in the world, helped alleviate flooding in central China by containing the heaviest rush of water in more than 12 years.

Water flow down Asia’s longest river was contained and released at a “safe level,” Huang Hua, assistant director of public affairs at China Three Gorges Corp., the operator, said by phone today. Operations at the Hubei province dam, including power generation, are “all normal”, he said.

Rainfall since July 1 has affected about 38 million people and forced the relocation of 1.3 million in 11 provinces, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said July 16. Rice output in China, which accounts for 35 percent of global production, may drop by 10 percent on torrential rains and outbreak of pests, industry website cngrain.com said today.

“Three Gorges can comfortably handle the flood water,” Chairman Cao Guangjing said in a statement on its website today. “For the control of flooding downstream, Three Gorges is working very effectively.”

The speed of the water rushing down the river peaked at 70,000 cubic meters a second, though the volume probably won’t be as big as 1998, with the peak level lasting a shorter time, Cao said in the statement. The flow is expected to drop to 60,000 cubic meters a second by 8 a.m. tomorrow, it said.

The 1998 flood, when the water flow reached 50,000 cubic meters a second, killed about 4,000 people and forced the evacuation of 18.4 million, causing economic losses of at least 166.6 billion yuan ($25 billion). That flood, which had affected central and northeast China, lasted for months.

Record Level

The Three Gorges Dam, which started operations in 2003, can handle water flow at 98,800 cubic meters a second, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing Cao. The record high was 70,800 cubic meters per second in 1981, the news agency said, citing an unidentified spokesman at the dam operator.

Flood and landslides triggered by torrential rains have left at least 41 people dead and 84 missing in Shaanxi and Sichuan provinces, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing flood control authorities. Economic losses in the 11 provinces totaled 29.52 billion yuan, the civil affairs ministry said.

“Heavy rains in July pounded on Hubei’s grain, cotton, vegetable, aquaculture and livestock producing areas before shifting westward and northward,” said cngrain.com, which is owned by China Grain Reserves Corp. “The rains also induced pests outbreaks this week.”

Ravages Crops

In some of the main producing areas, the output decline may be as much as 20 percent, cngrain said. Persistent and wide- ranging rains ravaged early rice crops in Jiangxi and Anhui provinces, with about 23 percent of the area in Jiangxi affected, it said. The early rice crop was in flowering stage when the rains hit, it added.

Hu Zaoping, director of the news department at Yangtze River Flood Control and Draught Relief Office, declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News.

Regions in Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia, Shandong, Anhui, Hubei, Hunan, Chongqing, Guizhou, Yunnan and Guangdong will have heavy rain in the next 24 hours, the China Meteorological Administration said in a statement.

Typhoon Chanthu may land in Guangdong or Hainan province on July 22, the weather bureau said at 11:18 a.m. local time.

Highways, Old Towns

More than 80 percent of the old township in Guangan city in Sichuan province were submerged after the biggest flood since 1847 hit the city, China Broadcasting Union reported today. More than two kilometers of the No. 318 national highway in county Qu, located in the eastern part of Sichuan Basin, was flooded yesterday at 6 p.m. The water blocked cars from the area and left the county an “isolated island,” according to the Chengdu Business Day.

The Chongqing Maritime Bureau has suspended shipping in the areas of Baishatuo Bridge, Chongqing Port, Tongluoxia, and Huangcaoxia since yesterday, Xinhua said. Chaotianmen port, the largest in Chongqing and the site where the Yangtze River and Jialing River merges, was partly inundated by the peak flow yesterday afternoon, People.com.cn reported.

Part of the Sichuan-Tibet highway may only be open again on July 28, after rain led to spillage of mud and rock, Xinhua said, citing the Communications Bureau of Tibet.

Flooding in southern China this year poses a challenge for agricultural production, Chen Mengshan, the Ministry of Agriculture’s spokesman and chief economist, said July 16.

China Three Gorges, the parent of Shanghai-listed China Yangtze Power Co., is building dams on the Yangtze River to control floods and help end electricity shortages in the world’s fastest-growing major economy. The nation is the world’s largest consumer of energy, according to the International Energy Agency.

Winnie Zhu and Feiwen Rong, Bloomberg News, July 20, 2010

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