China destroys dikes in attempt to lower swollen Yangtze

BEIJING (AP) — After ordering tens of thousands of residents to abandon their homes, engineers dynamited levees along a stretch of the swollen Yangtze River on Sunday to ease floodwaters menacing cities and farmland in central China.
The dynamiting in Hubei province is the latest effort to relieve pressure on the bulging Yangtze, which has already crested four times in what has been an especially deadly flood season.
Soldiers and residents of riverside communities have kept around-the-clock vigils on dikes for weeks, filling cracks above and below the water line.
On Sunday, engineers blew up secondary dikes in Jianli County, about 90 miles upriver from the industrial center of Wuhan, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Firmer primary dikes farther back from the river remain intact.
Police earlier had forced 50,000 residents — many of them “reluctant to move” — out of their homes, Xinhua said. The government has promised that residents affected by flood diversions will be compensated for lost property and crops.
Engineers hope the diversion of up to 28 billion cubic feet of water into miles of farmland behind the dike will lower the raging Yangtze’s water level by 4 to 10 inches, Xinhua reported.
If successful, the deliberate flooding at Jianli could remove the need to inundate the much larger Jingjiang area upriver, where 330,000 people have already been evacuated to high ground just in case.
By Sunday evening, the river at Shashi, north of the Jingjiang diversion area, stood at 147.3 feet, dangerously high but still below the 148.5-foot mark at which authorities say they will be forced to trigger flooding, Xinhua said.
While the Yangtze, the world’s third-longest river, is prone to overflowing its banks, this season has been unusually traumatic. More than 2,000 people have died nationwide this summer in floods caused by seasonal rains that arrived a month early and fell much harder than usual. Millions more have been left homeless from dike collapses along many parts of the Yangtze and its tributaries in central and eastern China.