TONGCHENG, Anhui - Soldiers used explosives to blast part of a leaking dike on a swollen branch of the Yangtze River in East China on Wednesday morning, to prevent flooding.
Some 100 soldiers blasted the dike in Qingcao township on the Dasha River in Anhui province with about 125 kg of explosives at 9:28 am, Cheng Yun, the township head said.
The explosion was a complete success, he added. An earlier attempt to blow the dike at midnight had to be postponed as floodwaters had damaged some of the explosives.
The water levels at the dike were now markedly lower - though still forceful - and life was returning to normal in the township at the city of Tongcheng, Cheng said.
After the dike had been successfully blasted, some 20,000 farm workers, five township and village officials, 450 armed police officers, 150 soldiers and some 60 policemen built a 180-m-long and 3-m-wide dike with sandbags.
Around 400 armed police from the Anqing detachment arrived at Qingcao around 1 pm on Sunday and worked around the clock - snatching sleep when and where they could - in order to battle the rising waters of Dasha River, including laying sandbags, to prevent inundation of the township.
"We arrived when it was raining cats and dogs.
"The rapid flood had already washed out part of the dike, and 13 houses on the very edge of the river bank were severely threatened," said Zeng Zhaoyang, a 30-year old serviceman from the Anqing detachment.
Days of torrential rains have caused many leaks in dikes on the Dasha River, which runs for 74.8 km within Tongcheng, and more than 1,000 residents living along the river have been evacuated.
As the waters rose and threatened resident houses on the bank, more than 100 people from 13 households were asked to leave their homes.
They and all their belongings were transported to the No 11 High School in the township, said Bian Miao, of the armed police, adding the houses were demolished later to leave space for rescue work.
"We're now feeling safer," said Wang Kongnan, 71, one of those whose house was demolished, adding that, "without the government and the army, the armed police, I'm afraid we might have drowned."
Wang, who lives with his 71-year-old wife, said this is the biggest flood since 1969.
Authorities in the province have also ordered soldiers to partially dismantle four small dikes to allow floodwaters to swamp farmland instead of spilling out of a dam and threatening a town with a population of 100,000.
Some 400 hectares of farmland near the larger West Dam in Huaining county will be "sacrificed," Liu Feiyue, head of the Huaining government, told Xinhua on Wednesday.
Liu said continuous rain raised the water level at the West Dam 1.36 meters above the warning line on Tuesday afternoon, close to the dam's bursting point.
The dam sits on the 14.4-kilometer-long Nitanggou River that runs through Shipai township, the former seat of the Huaining county government.
"Shipai township is densely populated. If the dike bursts, the consequences would be disastrous," said Liu.
"There are about 100,000 residents and 20,010 hectares of farmland in Shipai."