NANCHANG, June 30 (Xinhua) -- More than 2 million people in eastern Jiangxi Province are at risk as China's largest freshwater lake continues to rise causing parts of the protective embankment to leak, provincial authorities said Wednesday.
Hundreds of soldiers and local residents are patching the leaking sections of the embankment for Poyang Lake in Poyang County. Should they fail, homes and property of nearly 10,000 people will be flooded.
A part of the embankment in Yugan County is also being repaired after three seepages were found Monday. Leaks have also been detected on other sections, according to a statement from Jiangxi's Drought Prevention and Flood Control Headquarters.
Villagers, officials and soldiers are patrolling all sections of the embankment around the giant Poyang Lake, an important source of water on middle reaches of the Yangtze River, China's longest, to prevent and fix leaks. The lake covers an area of around 3,050 square km when it's at an average level. It can expand to 3,583 square km during the rainy season.
Dai Huaixiang, 63, has been paroling the embankment for three days. He does so to protect his hometown Tubei Village, 500 meters away from the embankment.
"No matter how tired, we must keep on watching and prevent the embankment from being breached. Floods are more dangerous than tigers," Dai said. He fought a massive flood that left more than 3,000 people dead in southern China in 1998.
The lake's water level has risen to 20.29 meters, 1.29 meters above the alert level, and a record high since 1999, said Luo Xiaoyun, secretary-general of the Drought Prevention and Flood Control Headquarters in Jiangxi Province.
The water level is expected to keep rising as China's Central Meteorological Observatory has forecast rains in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. Rains are also forecast in northern Jiangxi.
The government has invested more than 2 billion yuan (294.2 million U.S. dollars) to strengthen the embankment around Poyang Lake since the flood in 1998. But some parts of the embankment have degraded due to lack of maintenance, said Wen Lin, deputy head of Jiangxi's water resources department.
To maintain round the clock watch, Changdong Township's official Yu Zhongqin with other officials, villagers and technicians have moved to the tents on a 795-meter section assigned to Qiangang Village.
At the side of the embankment, stands a post with the names, contact information and responsibilities of patrollers on it.