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30,000 people watch over dikes in Central China

07-29-2010 09:47 BJT Special Report:China Fights Worst Flood in Decades |

BEIJING, July 29 (Xinhuanet) -- More than 30,000 soldiers, emergency workers and residents have stood watch over dikes on Wednesday near Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei province, as the city braced itself for floodwaters to arrive from two swollen rivers.

The Changjiang Water Resources Commission said that flood peaks from the Yangtze River and the Hanjiang River, the Yangtze's largest tributary, were expected to converge in Wuhan within 24 hours.

"It is very rare for the two rivers' flood peaks to arrive in Wuhan at the same time," said Hu Xiaohei, an inspector from Wuhan's Bureau of Water Resources.

The city, with a population of about 9.1 million, stands at the forefront of China's latest battle against floods, which has left 928 people dead and 477 missing so far this year as of 9 am on Wednesday, the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said.

"The city's ability to control the huge amount of water is certainly being tested," Hu said.

The Hanjiang River has been above the warning level for eight consecutive days and on Thursday is expected to rise to its highest level in two decades.

As a precaution, by Wednesday morning Wuhan flood authority had evacuated 5,000 residents in nearby Xiantao city and another 25,000 in southeastern Wuhan.

In Xiantao, workers were on standby on Wednesday to open floodgates to divert water from the Hanjiang to a reservoir, which covers 450 sq km.

The area, which stretches from Xiantao to southeastern parts of Wuhan and contains farmland and fish ponds, is designed as an emergency reservoir during serious floods.

"We won't divert the water until it is absolute necessary," said an official from the province's flood control headquarters.

"Scientific flood control measures are our first choice. If the gates must be opened, we will make sure costs are kept down."

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