The flood-battered banks of the Huaihe River are at risk of washing away, posing a grave threat to the homes of millions of people, Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday.
Torrential rains have wrought havoc across large parts of China this summer, most recently in the southwest and the east, killing more than 500 people and causing billions of dollars in damage.
More rain has been forecast.
The swollen Huaihe River, the third largest in the country, has entered a critical period for flood control efforts, officials with the flood control headquarters of Jiangsu Province said yesterday.
The rainy season is expected to end within the next few days, but many dikes face an increased risk of breaches after weeks of pressure from high water levels, Xinhua quoted officials as saying.
It was estimated that the water level of the Jiangsu section of the Huaihe River would remain dangerously high for at least the next 10 days.
The river has displaced about half a million people in Henan, Anhui and Jiangsu provinces since the start of this month. Many of them are still unable to return home.
Tens of thousands of troops were on guard to battle any breaches along the Anhui section of the river, which reportedly has 546 potential "danger" spots, 46 of them serious, Xinhua said.
The Jiangsu provincial government has dispatched 150,000 people to patrol the dikes since the beginning of this month. The province has invested 67 million yuan (US$8.8 million) in reinforcing 400 dikes.
Dozens of villages were deliberately inundated in Anhui to ease pressure at the height of the flooding. Xinhua said the pressure was "moderating". That could change as more rain is forecast in the coming days in the upper reaches of the river.
"People's physical and financial strength is wearing out. They tend to be less alert," Ji Bing, a top flood control official in Anhui, was quoted as saying.
In Chongqing, residents were coping with the aftermath of the worst rainstorm in more than a century. At least 42 died in floods, landslides and other disasters.
Tens of thousands of rural residents whose houses were destroyed were living in schools and tents and depended on food rations, Xinhua said, adding that downpours were expected to batter Chongqing and neighboring Sichuan Province yesterday.
Chongqing and Sichuan were suffering their worst drought in over 100 years at this time last year, leading some to blame the massive Three Gorges Dam for its meteorological and ecological impacts.
But Xinhua on Monday quoted government experts as saying that there was no conclusive evidence to link either the drought or the flood to the dam on the Yangtze River, China's longest.
Heavy rain also hit the southwestern province of Yunnan last week, killing about 60 people. At least 29 workers building a hydro-power plant died when mudslides buried their shelters early on Thursday.
In the northern province of Shanxi, 11 coal miners remained trapped after flash floods triggered by heavy rain submerged their pit on Sunday. Rescue efforts were hampered by rocks and mud, Xinhua said.
Meanwhile, days of scorching heat were expected to continue in five provinces in China's south and southeast on Tuesday, the National Meteorological Centre forecast on its Web site (www.nmc.gov.cn).
Temperatures in the provinces of Zhejiang, Fujian, Jiangxi, Guangdong and Hunan could reach 39 C, while in Turpan, Xinjiang Special Administrative Region, the temperature could hit 43 C, the centre said.
(China Daily July 25, 2007)