The Yangtze River's fifth flood crest of the season passed through Yichang yesterday and was nearing Jingjiang. Days of heavy rain in the Sichuan Basin and over Wujiang created a flood crest that was moving rapidly downstream and reached Yichang, Hubei province, at 2am yesterday. Water levels at Shashi, just upstream of Wuhan, which had dropped to 44.63 metres on Monday morning, rose to 44.7 metres as the crest passed. The fifth crest's arrival so soon after the fourth crest passed meant there was more pressure on dykes. Hubei's Anti-Flood Headquarters made another appeal for all residents to remain vigilant. The season's fourth flood crest passed Wuhan on Monday morning. It was the largest this year and the second-biggest in history, pushing water levels in the river there to 29.39 metres, not far from the 29.45-metre record in 1954. The crest arrived in Wuhan at about midnight and left at 4am, with water five metres above street level held back by dykes. As it passed, 40,000 people patrolled more than 400km of dykes around the city checking for signs of water seeping through, media said. Twenty-three boats carrying close to 10,000 tonnes of stones and sand were moored at 11 vulnerable sections of the dykes, ready to be sunk if necessary. Wuhan, as Hubei's provincial capital and the industrial, financial, transport and cultural hub of the region, has been Beijing's main concern during the flood season. President Jiang Zemin is reported to have called the province several times and Premier Zhu Rongji has visited the city twice during the past few days. Foreign reporters have been banned from visiting flooded areas by officials worried that reports could disrupt stability. Anti-flood officials said they were not allowed to speak to the press. Local media reports have been about the heroic efforts of soldiers and individuals fighting the floods. Little or no information has been given on casualties. An incident reported in the local press might go some way towards explaining the authorities' determination to control media reports. The story said that at 10am on Monday, residents in Hannan district heard that a floodgate was about to come down. This spurred more than 1,000 villagers into clambering on to rooftops of homes while others climbed trees or fled. Those who were sent to patrol the dykes also ran away. A team of 130 military police tried to persuade the panicked villagers to come down, with no success. The report said the villagers came down only when officers 'formed a chain singing military songs and marched to the dykes to take over patrolling duty'.