BEIJING (AP) — Floodwaters burst through a sodden levee protecting towns along China’s flood-swollen Yangtze River, state media reported Tuesday, and a human rights group said more than 1,000 people were believed to be missing.
Main Yangtze dikes remained intact, but secondary levees were breached in at least two counties and a city in central China’s Hubei province, the official China Youth Daily reported.
As of Monday, the bodies of nine soldiers had been recovered, said the Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China. The Hong Kong-based group said more than 1,000 people were believed missing.
Millions of soldiers and civilians have been working the dikes, watching for signs of collapse and plugging leaks, as waters on the Yangtze reached levels unseen since floods in 1954 killed more than 30,000 people.
Some 400 soldiers were swept away when a secondary levee protecting 56,000 people in two towns collapsed, the official newspaper Yangcheng Evening News said. Soldiers and police pulled nearly 20,000 people from the water, the newspaper said.
Torrential rains in southwest Sichuan province also have triggered flooding that killed at least 20 people, bringing the known death toll from floods this year to 1,288.
With a tropical storm and another flood tide expected, the threat mounted of further breaches along the already weakened levees that protect millions of people and rich farmland from the Yangtze, the world’s third-longest river.
In a bid to lower the river’s waters, Hubei authorities abandoned 11 small dikes in order to divert flood waters, the official Xinhua News Agency said. The strategy caused $48 million in flood damage but helped protect Wuhan, it said.