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China Seals Dike Breach at Its Second-Largest Freshwater Lake

By Xinhua|Jul 09,2024

Huarong, Hunan - Rescue personnel successfully sealed a 226-meter breach in a dike at China's second-largest freshwater lake on Monday, according to local authorities.

At 10:31 p.m., the final truckload of rocks was dumped into the breach in a dike at Dongting Lake, amidst the cheers of the rescue personnel.

According to the Yueyang flood control and drought relief headquarters, the sealing will expedite drainage and post-disaster reconstruction.

The breach at Dongting Lake in the city of Yueyang, central China's Hunan Province, was caused by floodwaters from torrential rain, with more than 7,000 residents evacuated since the dike burst on Friday afternoon.

At approximately 4 p.m. on Friday, a serious piping, an erosion-related incident, occurred at the dike. Despite emergency efforts to seal the leak, the dike failed and a breach formed.

An aerial drone photo shows rescuers sealing the dike breach in the Dongting Lake in Yueyang, central China's Hunan Province, July 8, 2024. (Photo/Chen Sihan, Xinhua)

Prior to the breach, Hunan Province experienced 17 consecutive days of heavy rainfall, the longest period of regional heavy rain since 1961.

"The intense rainfall led to high water levels in Dongting Lake, the highest in the past four years," said Liu Guhua, an expert with the Yueyang water resources bureau.

Upon receiving reports of the breach, rescue teams from various sectors quickly assembled. On Friday night, the National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration organized the shipment of 5,000 family emergency kits to Hunan to support the relocation and resettlement of residents affected by the flooding.

As of 2 p.m. Sunday, a total of 4,739 professional rescue personnel, 469 vehicles, 318 items of equipment, 144 large equipment sets and 170 boats had been deployed to the breach site.

Rescuers seal the dike breach in the Dongting Lake in Yueyang, central China's Hunan Province, July 8, 2024. (Photo/Chen Zhenhai, Xinhua)

Meanwhile, reinforcement efforts began on an embankment located approximately 2 kilometers behind the breached dike, serving as the second line of defense.

Stretching about 14.3 kilometers between two other embankments, it protects over 100,000 mu (about 6666.67 hectares) of fertile land and the homes of many residents.

Tang Min, a firefighter team leader with the Yueyang fire brigade, was among the first to arrive at the second line of defense. In the past few days, the team has been stationed on the embankment, conducting thorough inspections around the clock.

"Since the breach, many team members have only had a few hours of sleep. Despite several team members suffering from heatstroke due to the high temperatures, they persisted and completed their tasks," Tang said.

At 1 p.m. Saturday, efforts to seal the breach commenced. A strategy was devised to first stabilize the edges of the breach to prevent further expansion. The plan also included widening the unloading platform to ensure smooth material delivery and implementing measures such as alternating shifts and continuous machine operation to maintain high-intensity sealing efforts.

"We were progressing at a speed of 60 to 80 meters per day," said Zhang Xuanzhuang with the China Anneng Group First Engineering Bureau Co., Ltd.

An aerial drone photo shows rescuers sealing the dike breach in the Dongting Lake in Yueyang, central China's Hunan Province, July 8, 2024. (Photo/Chen Zeguo, Xinhua)

At the moment the breach was sealed, cheers erupted at a vocational school relocation site in Huarong County. Among those celebrating was 42-year-old Lu Lin from affected Tuanbei Village, who had been glued to her phone since arriving at the relocation site early on Saturday, even checking the progress of the dike closure during meals.

Huarong County has established four relocation sites in the county seat, each equipped with ample daily necessities and medical support services, as well as air-conditioners and fans to combat the summer heat. As of Saturday, a total of 7,680 people who needed to be relocated had been safely evacuated, with no casualties reported, and all have been properly resettled.

"My parents were among the builders of the damaged dike, with each shovelful of soil and stone carried on their shoulders. Now the dike has been sealed, we can rebuild our homes again. As long as it remains, our roots are here," Lu said.


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