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Chinese Authorities Still on Alert as More Rain is Expected - 2002-08-25

Flood control efforts are holding in China as the swollen waters of Dongting lake are beginning to recede. But authorities are still closely monitoring the situation with more rain expected and some 10 million people under threat.

China's second-largest freshwater lake, Dongting, peaked early Sunday morning before receding.

Chinese state controlled television reports the waters reached 34.91 meters and that some parts of the dike network had been damaged.

Dongting Lake covers 3,700 square kilometers, about the size of Luxembourg, in China's central Hunan Province.

More than one million soldiers and civilians have been mobilized to check the hundreds of kilometers of dikes along the lake and the rivers feeding it. There were no major breaches.

China had spent more than a billion dollars on reinforcing dikes and other flood control measures after the last major flooding in 1998 killed 4,000 people in the same area.

Weather forecasts are predicting more rain in the next few days. But officials near Dongting say they believe it will not be as heavy as previous rains and the only likely consequence would be that the waters recede more slowly.

But the danger may be moving. Cresting water is traveling down the Yangtze River and is expected to hit the city of Wuhan Monday morning. This city of seven million people is now under a state of emergency.

China's controversial Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric project, is intended to control the Yangtze River, but it will not be completed until 2009.

In the meantime, work squads have been struggling against the elements, and are not always successful. At least one small village has been submerged after a minor breach of a dike.

The high waters in this populous region have been threatening some 10 million residents, 600,000 of whom have already been evacuated.

So far this year, China's summer floods have killed more than 900 people.