More than two dozen houses were washed away by the Yangtze River in Jiangsu on Saturday after the collapse of 310-metre-long section of dyke protecting an island administered by the city of Zhenjiang .
No one was killed or injured, but the surging waters washed away 14 hectares of land near the dyke and flattened 28 houses belonging to seven families living on Jiangxinzhou island. The dyke was built in 1998.
Lu Zhiguo, a propaganda official from Zhenjiang's Flood Control and Drought Relief Office, said yesterday that residents had been told to evacuate to other parts of the island. He said water and electricity supplies on the island had returned to normal after being cut off for about a day.
"The situation is under control and we will finalise a plan to repair the dyke soon," he said.
Yang Xuehua saw her three-year-old home, built at a cost of 200,000 yuan (HK$245,800), washed away. She told the Yangtse Evening Post that a village official ordered her to abandon her home on Saturday night.
"I intended to bring some belongings, but was dragged away by the cadre," she said. "Therefore I don't have cash or bank deposits with me and my husband was evacuated in his slippers.
"We are out of danger now, but we have lost everything."
The city government described the collapse as an "underwater geological disaster" caused by the long-term eroding power of floods and the flow of the river, as well as the poor geological condition of the region, the Yangtse Evening Post reported.
However, many residents said they suspected sand dredging was to blame for the disaster. Lu denied that speculation.
Another section of the dyke collapsed in the middle of last month, about 1.2 kilometres away from the site of Saturday's collapse, local authorities said.
Professor Jiang Dayong, a Peking University geologist, said foundations in many parts of the Yangtze River Delta were not stable due to the loose soil structure in the region.
But he also said that shoddy construction could be to blame for the two collapses, because "there are too many tofu projects" on the mainland.