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Flood Waters Threaten More Than 10 Million Homes in China - 2002-08-24

Hundreds of thousands of workers continue to shore up dikes as water levels in China's second largest lake near their peak. The homes of 10 million people are in danger of being swamped by the waters of Dongting Lake.

More than one million peasants and soldiers are working frantically to contain the swollen Dongting Lake. The lake covers 4,000 square kilometers, the size of Luxembourg, in China's central Hunan Province.

The work squads are piling sandbags, rocks and soil into leaks along a vast network of dikes around the lake and the four rivers that feed it.

Some top officials are hopeful that the dikes will hold. They were reinforced after the worst floods in decades killed 4,000 people in 1998.

The flood crest driving down the Yangtze River is expected to surge into Dongting Lake on Sunday. Officials warn residents in the most threatened areas to be ready to evacuate at short notice. The officials say the water level should peak at around 35 meters, just below the record level seen in 1998.

So far this year, China's summer floods have killed more than 900 people. Even if the dikes of Dongting Lake hold, communities farther downriver remain endangered, including the city of Wuhan, with a population of seven million.

However, the mood in the area is reportedly calm even though at least one small village has been submerged after a minor breach of a dike. An estimated 27,000 homes in the area have been flooded.