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Three Gorges Reservoir Faces Test

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A continuous deluge along the swollen Yangtze River has pushed the water level of China's Three Gorges reservoir to its peak this year Friday and it may rise further, testing the country's mega water control system built to tame the worst floods.

The water level rose to 158.86 meters at 10:00 AM Friday, about 13.86 meters above the reservoir's water-releasing level, said engineers of the reservoir, located in Yichang City, central Hubei Province.

As of 2 p.m. Friday, the water level dropped to 158.83 meters and has remained largely stable since.

The maximum capacity of the multibillion dollar reservoir is 175 meters.

On Tuesday flood waters gushed into the reservoir 70,000 cubic meters per second -- the greatest velocity since it was built. The flow reduced to 34,000 cubic meters per second at 2:00 PM Friday.

The reservoir continued to release water at a speed of 40,000 cubic meters per second.

Engineers said the reservoir had held 8 billion cubic meters of flood water on the Yangtze River during the latest round of heavy rains. They said the water level would drop in the coming days but was expected to rise again early next week.

Chen Lei, Minister of Water Resources and deputy director of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, on Friday urged those responsible to continue to inspect and protect dams and reservoirs as well as prepare for heavy rainfalls.

The headquarters has dispatched work teams to areas including Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu to coordinate flood-fighting efforts.

Floods in China this year have left 742 people dead and 367 missing, as of Friday morning.

Floods have hit 28 provinces, regions and municipalities, affecting 120 million people and swamping 7.6 million hectares of crops, according to the headquarters.

The floods have caused the collapse of 670,000 homes and resulted in direct economic losses of 152.4 billion yuan (US$22.51 billion).

Typhoons are now plaguing the flood-hit regions.

Typhoon Chanthu, the third of the summer, was downgraded to a tropical storm at 2:00 AM Friday.

Chanthu affected about 1.36 million residents, killing two and toppling 2,915 houses. It also caused direct economic losses of 2.4 billion yuan (US$354.51 million).

(Xinhua News Agency July 24, 2010)