Rainstorms Leave Yangtze River Cities Flooded as Rescue Effort Begins

china-hengdong-062920.jpg The Hengdong area of China's Hunan province is shown under flood.
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Torrential rains in the Yangtze river basin coupled with the release of floodwater from the massive Three Gorges hydroelectric dam upstream have left major cities along the river submerged, local residents told RFA.

Heavy rains in the Yangtze region have left at least 12 people dead and more than 10 million people affected by the floods, with social media footage showing drowned streets with cars and scooters swept away by turbulent, muddy waters.

In the Yangtze river city of Yichang, residents blamed recent releases of water from the Three Gorges and Gezhouba dams upstream of the city for flooding in their backyard.

In the central province of Hunan a woman was electrocuted after high-voltage power lines fell into water amid heavy rains and flooding along the Hunan river, which flows into the Yangtze at Yueyang.

Social media footage from the area showed a man pulling a woman to safety as she was swept away by floodwater.

Social media reports said there had been several electrocutions in recent days.

A resident of Hunan's Xiangyang city surnamed Li said the water level on the nearby Yangtze was very high at the weekend.

"I heard that the Three Gorges Dam and Gezhou Dam, which are upstream, are currently in full flood relief mode," Li said. "Yet the flood season isn't even here yet; the main flood season in the Yangtze river basin is usually July and August."

"Will cities in the Yangtze river basin, including Wuhan, experience flooding this year?" he said.

Home 'totally flooded'

A local resident surnamed Wang said his furniture had been washed away by the floods.

"It was raining really hard while I was at work," he said.

"When I got home, our home, which is on the ground floor, had been totally flooded by water so deep that some of our furniture was even washed away," Wang said.

Heavy rainstorms dumped 272 millimeters of rain on Yichang in the course of a single day on Saturday, the largest amount since records began.

By Sunday afternoon, 12 people had died and 10 were reported missing.

Currently, 25 rivers in China have water levels above danger level, outside of worst-hit Chongqing, Hubei, Henan, and Anhui.

Wide areas of Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Hunan and other provinces have now also begun to see floods, sparking the ruling Chinese Communist Party to declare a national emergency on Sunday.

'The experts were right'

Jiangsu-based rights activist Zhang Jianping said he had never seen such a huge flood disaster in his lifetime.

"With hindsight, I think that all of those experts who opposed the building of the Three Gorges were right," Zhang said. "Since it was built, it has never played a role in preventing flooding or droughts, like we thought it would back then."

"There used to be big rains [plum rains] at this time back in the countryside, and they were heavier than this, but we were never flooded," he said.

Rescue teams were dispatched in worst-hit Mianning county in the southwestern province of Sichuan, using life-detectors, sniffer dogs, and excavation equipment to look for survivors of a flash flood in the mountainous area, state news agency Xinhua reported on Monday.

"The casualties were mainly caused by a sudden mountain torrent, which diverted rivers to inundate houses and roads," it said, adding that the sudden flood had led to the evacuation of more than 7,000 people.

Rivers changed course, washing away five bridges, and damaging power lines in the area, the agency said.

President Xi Jinping on Sunday called for "all-out efforts to prevent floods and geological disasters, intensify rescue and relief work, and ensure that people's lives and safety are the top priority," Xinhua said.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Ma Lap-hak and Wu Hoi-man for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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