Zhejiang dam gates open for first time since 1999

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 June, 2011, 12:00am


Sluice gates were opened at the Xinan River Reservoir in Zhejiang for the first time since 1999 yesterday morning as floodwaters came close to overflowing the dam.

Three of the dam's nine gates opened shortly after 9.30am, releasing some 2,800 cubic metres of water per second into the river system. The authorities estimated it would take 30 to 40 hours to bring the massive reservoir's water level at the dam below the danger mark of 106.5 metres.

The largest reservoir in eastern China had been 67 centimetres above that mark on Monday night.

Residents of Jiande, five kilometres downstream of the dam, said yesterday afternoon that water in the river had been rising since the sluice gates opened, but they were confident flood defences would hold.

'I don't see any need to worry,' said taxi driver Zhang Yushan. 'The river is still at least 10 metres below the flood walls and the police haven't even started putting out sandbags.'

The Xinan is one of the main tributaries to the Qiantang River, which was particularly hard hit by flooding over the weekend, meaning the reservoir release has raised concerns about water levels rising again in downstream areas.

The Fuchun River Reservoir dam at Tonglu, roughly 50 kilometres downstream of Jiande, began discharging at noon yesterday as a result of the increased flow.

The 21.6 billion cubic metre reservoir is fed by the mountainous western reaches of Zhejiang, a region which has seen the mainland's heaviest rainfall in recent days - more than 40 centimetres between June 11 and Monday, according to data from the China Meteorological Administration's website.

At least 175 people have died and 86 are missing as a result of the floods that have been affecting much of central and southern China for more than two weeks.

An estimated 16.4 million have been moved to safety as a result of the deluge, which began on June 3, with a total of 36.57 million having been affected in some way, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said on Monday.

An initial official estimate put the economic cost to Zhejiang province alone at 10.8 billion yuan (HK$12.93 billon), China National Radio reported yesterday.

But while Zhejiang appears to be over the worst for the immediate future, other areas are still battling to cope with major deluges.

The weather bureau issued heavy rain warnings yesterday for the coast of southern China from Hainan to southern Fujian from today until Friday due to an approaching tropical storm.

It also predicted continued heavy rainfall until at least Friday in a band running northeast from northern Yunnan, to Shandong .

In Anhui, more than 660 reservoirs had overflowed and 117 kilometres of flood dykes had been damaged, Xinhua reported.