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Wuhan on Flood Alert as Yangtze Water Levels Rise
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Wuhan in central China is on high alert as waters level in the Yangtze River reach dangerous heights in the city, a state media reported Thursday.

Xinhua News Agency said officials in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, have ordered stepped up patrols along dikes and sluice gates in the city of 9.1 million people.

Sand bags have been prepared for possible breaches and drills on closing up breaches will be held on Thursday and Friday, Xinhua said.

Since the start of the annual rainy season in May, floods have hit nearly half of China's regions and killed at least 400 people, Xinhua said.

It said the water level in the Yangtze rose to 25.07 meters (82 feet) early on Thursday, its highest level this year. The danger level is 27.3 meters (90 feet).

The level is expected to keep rising in the next several days, Xinhua quoted local officials as saying. The regular level of the river was not given.

Warnings were also issued Thursday for central Hunan province, where 15,000 government workers and 260,000 residents were guarding dikes and sluice gates.

About 870 kilometers (540 miles) of dikes in the province are saturated by dangerously high waters, Xinhua said. More heavy rains are expected and parts of the province could be hit by typhoons.

In eastern Jiangsu province, government officials were predicting that the Huaihe River would remain at dangerously high levels for at least 10 days, Xinhua said.

A senior Commerce Ministry official said the government had released meat from reserves to help people living in flooded areas.

"Some areas of the country have suffered serious flooding and pork supplies are tight. So after the Commerce Ministry discussed with other government departments, we decided to use the meat reserve," said Fang Aiqing, head of the ministry's market operations department.

Fang's comments were posted Thursday on the central government's Web site.

Summer is peak rainy season in China, where millions of people in the central and southern part of the country live on farmland in flood plains.

Flooding and typhoons killed 2,704 people in China last year, according to the China Meteorological Administration. That was the second-deadliest year on record after 1998, when summer flooding claimed 4,150 lives.

(China Daily July 27, 2007)

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