China’s flood control authority is warning of possible heavy flooding in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River this year as the basin areas are set to receive more precipitation for the upcoming rainy season.
Liu Yaming, director of the Changjiang Water Resources Commission of the Ministry of Water Resources, said the upper and lower reaches of the Yangtze River have already been hit by several rounds of torrential rain this year.
Forecasts by the China Meteorological Administration said that the precipitation received in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River is 20 percent more than average, while the water level of the river in its middle and lower reaches is 2.5 meters higher than normal.
“All signs are showing that there is no room for optimism for the flood control situation this year, and we should stay highly vigilant,” she said during a teleconference late on April 10.
Meanwhile, the upper reaches of the Yangtze River are also expecting the heaviest flooding in 20 years, the administration said.
El Nino is also expected to exert heavy influence on the country this year, increasing the chances of extreme weather conditions, Liu said. El Nino is a warming of sea temperatures in the Pacific that affects wind patterns, triggering floods and droughts. Previous El Ninos have led to severe droughts and floods in China.
The flood season of the Yangtze River is expected to last between April and October, the administration said.
There has already been flooding of some tributaries of the river in its middle reaches, including ones that converged into Poyang Lake in Jiangxi province, the administration said.
The fact that the Yangtze River areas have not been hit by a major flood in more than 15 years could also have resulted in lapses among officials, Liu warned.
The Yangtze River last experienced massive flooding in the summer of 1998 when the river basin areas experienced more than 70 days of torrential rainfall. At least 1,800 people died in the floods, with more than 100 million people affected.
Vice-Premier Wang Yang, who is also the commander-in-chief of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, also warned of risks of the Yellow and Huai rivers flooding during the upcoming rain season.
Both rivers have not experienced major floods for decades, which also means the risk of flooding is increasing and more damage could be done, he said in a work conference last week.
He also warned of a possible rise in casualties, especially for elderly people, because of the work force population moving to the developed eastern provincial areas.
“The large number of elderly people in rural areas and lack of young people has made the rescue effort more difficult, and the traditional way of mobilizing the young people for the rescue effort is no longer applicable,” he said.