Ice flows caused by rising temperatures on an inland river on the China-Kazakhstan border are damaging embankments and flooding homes as the region starts to warm after nearly three weeks of severe winter conditions.
By Friday, ice flows had affected six of nine counties in the Ili River Valley of China's Xinjiang Ugyur Autonomous Region, destroying four kilometers of embankment and flooding about 50 homes, the government of the Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture of Ili said.
It estimated direct economic losses of around 14 million yuan (1.94 million U.S. dollars).
Since Jan. 22, the low temperature in the region was about minus 22 degrees Celsius, freezing up the narrow, zigzagging sections of the Ili River and causing ice flows along its 442-km China section.
As temperatures had rebounded four or five degrees since Thursday, this had worsened the flows.
By Friday, the ice had swollen to form a 10-km icy belt that towered at least 40 centimeters over the embankment. It eventually destroyed some of the flood-defence facilities, the local water resource bureau said.
It said the run was the most severe on the river since 2000.
The bureau has sent workers to reinforce the embankment and remove ice from the blocked sections, amid the local meteorological station's warning of severe spring flooding caused by snowmelt.
The Ili originates in Xinjiang and empties into Kazakhstan's Balkhash Lake.
(Xinhua News Agency February 9, 2008)