BEIJING, July 19 (Xinhuanet) -- The Three Gorges reservoir is expected to face its biggest challenge since its operation, with a major flood brewing at the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, water authorities said on Sunday.
The China Three Gorges Corporation forecast that floods as huge as those in 1998 will occur.
The peak flow of the coming flood has been forecast at 70,000 cubic meters a second, greater than the 50,000 cubic meters a second during the flood in 1998, when 4,150 people were killed and 18.4 million residents evacuated.
The Three Gorges navigation administration said on Saturday it will close ship locks if floods gush in at a speed of up to 45,000 cubic meters a second.
At least 146 people have already been confirmed dead and 40 missing in 10 provinces and Chongqing municipality by Friday, after continuous rainstorms and floods in the areas since July 1, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said.
Heavy rains have inflated water flow at both the mainstream and tributaries of the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, with inflow from the Minjiang, Tuojiang and Jialing rivers rising fast, said Wang Jun, director of the hydrology bureau under the Changjiang Water Resources Commission.
Daily rainfall at the Jiuyuan monitoring station on the Jialing River hit 225 mm on Saturday. Inflow to the Cuntan monitoring station on the Yangtze River mainstream went up to 42,300 cubic meters a second at 3 pm on Sunday.
Inflow to the Three Gorges reservoir will reach 53,000, 66,000 and 60,000 cubic meters a second at 8 am on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, the hydrology bureau forecast.
With strong rains forecast along the Jinsha River on Thursday, inflow to the reservoir is also expected to approach 70,000 cubic meters a second.