Officials in China's Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region have warned of the dangers of collapsed embankments and flooding as the frozen Yellow River begins to thaw.
About 212 km of the 720-kilometer stretch of the Yellow River in Inner Mongolia began to melt on March 11, and the thaw had reached sections near Bayan Nur City on the north bank and Erdos City on the south, according to the region's ice run prevention headquarters.
The 200-km section near the two cities has poor embankments, where dangers of collapse occur every year. Since the section froze in winter, 34 locations have had issued embankment warnings.
On Monday, Chinese artillery troops blasted some stretches to clear ice blockages.
Sections of the river freeze and thaw at different times. When an ice run flows into a frozen section it can block the river. If the blockage persists, water levels may rise and cause flooding and dam bursts, threatening lives and property. The ice-run takes place at the start of winter and spring.
The river's ice flow is the heaviest in 40 years. Its downstream watercourse in the region is holding one billion cubic meters of water, much more than in a normal year.
More than 70,000 people in the region are on standby for rescue and disaster relief efforts.
Around 50 million cubic meters of water had been diverted from the watercourse to a general irrigation channel. An upper reservoir in Gansu Province also reduced water flow from 400 cubic meters per second to 240 cubic meters per second.
The Inner Mongolia stretch is forecast to be fully thawed by late March.
The Yellow River, China's second longest at 5,464 km, springs in Qinghai Province in the northwest and flows through Sichuan, Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Henan and Shandong before emptying into the Bohai Sea.
(Xinhua News Agency March 18, 2008)