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Heavy rains raise water level in Yellow River
By Liang Chao (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-26 01:25

Flooding along the Yellow River in the north and landslides in the southwest have made the last few days a time that many Chinese people would prefer to forget.

At least 10 people have been killed since Tuesday in Dechang County in Sichuan Province, with four others being injured and seven still missing following heavy rain which caused mudflows and landslide.

Heavy rains of up to 170 millimetres swept over 8 townships of the county, destroying or damaged more than 2,120 house rooms, affecting about 5,000 people and leaving more than 1,400 homeless, according to reports.

The local government has earmarked 300,000 yuan (US$36,144) for disaster relief.

Rescuers are continuing to search for the missing.

In the north, tens of thousands of people living on floodplains downstream from the Yellow River in East China's Shandong Province are facing floods as water levels keep rising.

A flood crest, the biggest ever in six years, emerged early yesterday in the Shandong section of the Yellow River, the second longest river in China, and posed a potential threat to the local people, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

The water flow of the Yellow River section surged to 3,540 cubic meters per second yesterday morning, a record discharge in the past five years, and its water table topped the 63.05 metre mark at the Gaocun Hydrological Station in the lower reaches of the river.

Local water authorities warned that the flood crest could hit 63.3 metres, close to the warning line of 63.4 metres.

By press time last night, a few newly shaped tidal zones in Heze, Shandong, were said to have been submerged.

The local section of the Yellow River, which began swelling on Tuesday, rose to 2,400 cubic metres from 800 cubic metres per second in less than eight hours.

Over the past few days, water levels also rose on the Beiluohe, Jinghe and Weihe river, major tributaries of the Yellow Rivers with sediment charges reaching a record 442 kilograms per cubic metre of water at Tongguang Hydrological station in Shaanxi Province due to rainfalls upstream.

Flood control authorities have fully opened huge sluice gates at the Xiaolangdi Reservoir in Henan Province to flush away substantial amounts of riverbed silt and quickly remove deposited silt.

Long deposited sediment on the riverbed of the Yellow River in Shandong and Henan provinces can be reduced with the help of the powerful floodwaters sent out form the reservoir, experts believed.

This can help prevent possible floods from ravaging the vast stretches of floodplains with more than 1.8 million people in Henan and Shandong provinces along the lower reaches, they say.

The 5,464-kilometre-long Yellow River originates on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, winds its way through eight provinces and autonomous regions, and empties into the Bohai Sea.

Once a notorious troublemaker in Chinese history, the Yellow River used to burst it banks twice every three years and change its course every 100 years over the past 2,000 years.

Now the river carries some 1.6 billion tons of silt annually with a quarter of this deposited on the riverbed downstream.

The river's principal problem has always been the silt deposits caused by exceptionally high levels of sediment.

The river bed in the lower reaches was up to 10 metres higher than the surrounding fields in the Henan and Shandong sections, leading to the Yellow River being described as a "hanging river."

Worst of all, a substantial amount of sediment left behind has contributed to the silting of the river course. This has significantly raised the river bed and built up another "hanging river" between its trunk stream and the floodplain bordering it.

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