Workers narrow dike breach in E China after 1.3m evacuated

Updated: 2010-06-27 00:40
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NANCHANG - More than 400 workers and soldiers narrowed a 400-meter gap in a dike on east China's Fuhe River by more than 200 meters as of 10 p.m. Saturday, as floods that have killed 235 people ravaged the south of the country for the 12th day.

The river in Fuzhou City, Jiangxi Province, breached its banks for a second time early Wednesday, two days after a dike on another section of the river burst, forcing the evacuation of 1,320,000 people, according to the provincial Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

Almost all of the people had been successfully evacuated as of 6 p.m. Friday and no casualties were reported, said Wu Fusheng, the city's deputy Party chief.

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Fan Tianyin, a senior officer of the hydrological engineer corps of the Armed Police, said workers started to narrow the breach from both directions on Saturday, which was expected to accelerate the work that began on Friday.

Sun Xiaoshan, deputy commander of the headquarters, said that the river' s flowing current was still keeping water at a high level, as the Liaofang Reservoir on the upper stream was discharging flood water to reduce the danger of an overflow.

He said the headquarters was still working on measures to reduce the river's water runoff to ensure the repairs of the breached dike could be finished in six days as scheduled.

Further, he said as the breach was narrowed water would flow faster, making it more difficult to completely block it.

The local water resources authorities have left the other dike breach open as one of the measures to reduce water runoff.

"What we most worry about is when can the breach be fixed and people return home," said Luo Hongliu, whose parents had been evacuated from a nearby village.

About 24,000 flood victims have been settled in dormitories and classrooms in local schools, which had given students an earlier summer vacation than usual to accommodate the evacuees. The other 70,000 evacuees were staying with relatives and friends, according to the headquarters.

Officials said 10 of 925 damaged roads, caused by lingering downpours in Jiangxi, were still being repaired. Among them, a 7-km section on the No. 316 state highway  remained submerged in flood waters because of the dike breach.

The major cause of the breach was the continuous strong water flow as the rainfall, since the beginning of this year, had been 53 percent greater than the average level, especially from June 16 to 21, said Huang Sairong, vice mayor of Fuzhou City.

The second cause for the breach was the material used in construction of the dike -- silt sand and pebble bed, Huang said.

The third cause was that the base of the dike had been soaked for  an extended period and was easily eroded by strong waves, Huang said.

Ji Xiaosheng, vice president of Fuzhou Hydropower Survey and Design Institute, said the dike was designed to  endure a once-in-20-year flood, but the dike had not been built in accordance with this standard.

Further, the rescue plan was based upon the current situation, and it was a temporary plan, Ji said.

Jiangxi Provincial government had allocated 24 million yuan (US$3.5 million) for disaster relief and 23 million yuan of which was for repairing the breach.