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China May Destroy Dikes for Farms

July 27, 1998

WUHAN, China (AP) _ With water in the rain-swollen Yangtze River dangerously high and still rising, China is considering blowing up dikes and diverting flood waters into farm districts to spare cities, the official media said Monday.

As the third flood crest this month roared toward central China, authorities warned that levees weakened by weeks of rain and high water could collapse, the official China Daily said.

If authorities blast open upstream levees, crop land will be inundated and tens of thousands of farmers will be forced to evacuate, the newspaper said.

The situation is entering ``the most critical stage″ in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze, the newspaper quoted regional flood relief official Li Antian as saying.

Flooding has killed more than 1,145 people since heavy rains began falling this spring. Almost a million people have been forced from their homes in Hunan, Hubei and Jiangxi, the three worst-hit provinces.

The newspaper didn’t say when or where the levees might be destroyed, but such consideration of such tactics underscores authorities’ desperation in dealing with the highest water levels on the Yangtze in 44 years.

Some of China’s most populous farm areas and important industrial centers are at risk, including Wuhan, a city of more than 7 million.

Farther downstream, Anhui and Jiangsu provinces declared states of emergency Monday as the Yangtze’s waters climbed to the highest level in history in some areas.

Jiangsu has begun evacuating people from islands in the Yangtze in anticipation of the flood crest.

The State Council, China’s Cabinet, issued a directive ordering flood relief agencies to ``spare no effort″ to help those affected.

Disaster relief material, including 400 rubber rafts, 800,000 sandbags and 2.6 million square feet of sheeting, has been sent to Hunan, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Rains have pushed 2,100 miles of mud and stone dikes to the breaking point in the Yangtze basin, the China Daily said. Inspectors have found 1,000 weak points along levees in Hubei, and sandbags have been stacked over three feet high along a 140-mile section.

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