ˇˇˇˇWUHAN, May 20 (Xinhuanet) -- Floods on China's largest river, the Yangtze,
have arrived a month earlier than normal, because of continuous rainfall over
the past month in the middle and lower reaches of the river.
ˇˇˇˇOn Sunday, water levels in the Yangtze River reached 25.1 meters in Wuhan,
capital of central China's Hubei Province. Topping the "danger level", this is
the highest the river has beensince records began.
ˇˇˇˇSuch a dangerous height has only been recorded once before, in 1998, and one
month later in June, when the disastrous flood claimed thousands of lives and
inundated 240,000 sq.km. of fertile farmland in this major grain production
center of China. Economic losses in the river basin during the two months of
summer floodingamounted to 200 billion yuan.
ˇˇˇˇThis year, Wuhan, which is the most important industrial centerin China's
central region, received rainfall in April that equalled twice the amount of
rain in a normal year.
ˇˇˇˇMeanwhile, provinces along the Yangtze River, such as Jiangsu and Guangdong,
have begun keeping a 24-hour watch to prevent flood disasters, since
water topped their respective "danger levels."
ˇˇˇˇWater levels in the 1,548-kilometer-long Dongting Lake along the river
have also risen higher than the "danger level" .
The Yangtze River area has been in a
state of flood alert since the beginning of this year.
ˇˇˇˇMeteorologists and lawmakers attending the Fifth Session of the Ninth
National People's Congress in March called for flood prevention measures on the
Yangtze in summer.
ˇˇˇˇThey warned that last year's warm winter, the longest in recentyears,
signalled the recurrence of El Nino, the weather pattern usually accompanied by
serious droughts and floods in China.
ˇˇˇˇThe last El Nino which affected China in 1997 proved this. It brought
prolonged droughts and high temperatures in north China in 1998 and catastrophic
floods in the southern region.
ˇˇˇˇThe warning has galvanised many provinces and cities into taking early
ˇˇˇˇMeanwhile, after the 1998 flood, the Chinese government has invested more
than 50 billion yuan (6.02 billion U.S. dollars) in building flood controls
along the Yangtze. Of that amount, 28.2 billion yuan was used to reinforce dykes
along the middle and lower reaches.
ˇˇˇˇMajor dykes on the Yangtze now can withstand floods of a severity seen only
once every 100 years. Ecological projects along the Yangtze which widen its
flood capacity by letting reclaimed farmland revert to lakes and rivers, will
also begin paying off this year. Enditem