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Pub Date:2020-07-23 08:38 Source:China Daily Global

Sluice gates opened in Anhui province to protect other areas

Qu Chengying was chatting with neighbors in a pavilion on Tuesday afternoon when a team of armed police arrived in her village in Anhui province with supplies of food, medicine and other necessities.

The woman, who is in her 70s, and more than 50 other residents in Langlou village, Funan county, have been isolated since Monday morning, when the area was flooded. By Tuesday, crops and roads had been submerged by the waters.

However, this was no surprise to the villagers, as the operation was carried out deliberately by opening the sluice gates on a major flood diversion project.

The Wangjiaba sluice gates near the confluence of the 1,000-kilometer-long Huaihe River, which is several hundred meters from the village, and two other rivers, were opened on Monday morning.

The Huaihe flows from west to east through Henan, Anhui, Jiangsu and Shandong provinces.

The Huaihe River Commission of the Ministry of Water Resources said that due to continuous torrential rainfall in Anhui and Henan on the upper reaches of the river, the water level at the sluice gates reached 29.66 meters at 6:36 am on Monday-0.36 meter higher than the safety level. The waters were continuing to rise.

About two hours later, the commission ordered all 13 sluice gates to be opened. The waters poured into the Mengwa Flood Diversion Area, which includes four townships and is home to about 195,000 people.

With the waters flowing at 1,626 cubic meters per second, the entire area was submerged in just a few hours.

Lu Haitao, an official with the Huaihe River Course Administration, said, "With a capacity of 750 million cubic meters of water, the area will be used according to the situation on the river."

In 2007, the last time the diversion area was used, it stored 250 million cubic meters of water, Lu added.

When the Huaihe rises above the safety level in Funan, authorities can opt to open the sluice gates-which were built in 1953-to let excess water flow into the 180-square-kilometer Mengwa Flood Diversion Area. Administered by Fuyang city, the area is home to more than 195,000 people. It has been flooded deliberately 16 times since 1954.

The Huaihe River Commission said the waterway rises in the mountains of Henan, and its upper reaches run for 364 km, with the river falling 178 meters over that distance.

By contrast, the middle reaches, which are mostly in Anhui, lie between the Wangjiaba sluice gates and Hongze Lake in Jiangsu. This stretch is 490 km long, with the river dropping a mere 16 meters, according to the commission, which was founded in 1950. It is headquartered in Bengbu, a riverside city in Anhui, and employs more than 3,000 people.

Wu Xu, an expert with the commission, said it was formed because harnessing the waters of the Huaihe along its entire length required coordinated efforts by governments in different areas.

Course changed

The river used to flow directly into the Yellow Sea, but as floods have greatly changed its course, it now forms a major tributary of the Yangtze River, which has experienced severe flooding recently.

Wu said that over thousands of years, the Yellow River, to the north, repeatedly changed course southward to flow into the Huaihe, creating new highlands and lakes, including Hongze Lake, the largest body of water in the Huaihe's drainage area.

"The bottom of Hongze Lake is actually higher than the Huaihe riverbed," he said.

Floodwater runs rapidly along the upper reaches of the Huaihe from Henan into Anhui, but is unable to pass easily through the central stretches and into the Yangtze, he added.

The river's total drainage area covers 270,000 sq km, about the size of New Zealand.

Lu, from the Huaihe River Course Administration, said, "Residents in the diversion area have to make a sacrifice for the good of those on the upper and lower reaches."

He said the local government and the public's willingness to make a sacrifice has been a key part of the so-called Wangjiaba Spirit, which has been hailed nationwide.

Safety measures

Thanks to the measures taken by the authorities, Qu, the Langlou villager, is no longer frightened of floods.

Chatting in the pavilion, she said, "In the past, every time the floods came, there were huge losses and rescuers worked desperately to get us out of the water."

Born in an area standing on high ground, Qu did not move into Wangjiaba township, one of four in the Mengwa Flood Diversion Area, until she married her husband in Langlou village.

In 2000, the local government launched a project to rebuild villages in the diversion area. Qu's two-story house, paid for by the government and standing on ground more than 10 meters higher than nearby fields, was completed in 2003.

Guo Chang, an official from the Funan transport bureau, who was sent to Langlou to take care of the villagers, said, "As the residents have all been relocated, flood relief work has become much easier.

"More than 300 villagers in Langlou have hukou, or household registration, but only 59 people-mostly seniors and children-are living in the village," he said, as many people have moved to cities across the country for work.

Yue Lei, a senior Funan official, said some villagers run fish, cattle or poultry farms in fields standing on low ground.

On Sunday night, the local government issued an emergency notice, ordering people from these areas to evacuate.

Yue said more than 2,000 people, along with property that could be moved, were relocated overnight before the sluice gates were opened on Monday morning.

Even though the gates were not opened until everyone had been moved to safety, the operation was still a race against time.

Lang Maoyong, who returned home several days ago from Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province, said, "The government told us to store necessities two days before the sluice gates were opened."

Chen Hongdeng, an armed police officer from Fuyang, who led a team carrying supplies to Langlou by boat on Tuesday, said the officers, many other government employees and volunteers helped with the evacuation on Sunday night.

The main task now is to ensure supplies reach the villagers and to patrol dikes around the Mengwa Flood Diversion Area, Chen added.

Yue said, "As the water will remain in the area for a while, according to our estimates, we must remain alert to the possibility of the dikes being damaged.

"The biggest losses will come in the agricultural sector, as crops and farms have been submerged," she said.

Compensation offer

Authorities said the villagers will be offered compensation.

Minor inconveniences have been experienced by some residents whose villages have become islands.

Lang said that before the area was flooded, a doctor from a nearby village visited his home to treat him, but the flooding meant that such an arrangement was no longer possible.

"It's not urgent, I can wait," he said, adding that he had enough food to last a week.


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