Ancient town on tributary of China's Three Gorges flooded

Fenghuang Ancient Town latest area upstream of Three Gorges Dam to be inundated

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TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — An ancient Chinese town that has over 2,000 years of history is the latest location to be inundated by the devastating floods ravaging southern China over the past few weeks.

Since June, more than 10 million people in 26 provinces have been affected by torrential rain, with many cities above and below the Three Gorges Dam submerged by floodwaters, calling into question the effectiveness and stability of the massive facility. Fenghuang Ancient Town (鳳凰古城), which dates back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770–476 BC) and sits on a tributary of the Yangtze River in Hunan Province, has suffered extensive flooding in recent days.

Xinhua reported that there had recently been heavy rainfall on the Wujiang, Minjiang, and Tuojiang rivers at the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. Staring on Monday (June 29), the banks of the Tuojiang River started to become submerged by roaring floodwaters.

Videos posted online Tuesday (June 30) by residents of the town show torrents of silt-laden water tear through the streets of the town, with people wading up to their shoulders in water and at least 20 trapped at one point. In more modern parts of the town, vehicles and pedestrians can be seen struggling to navigate through swirling pools of brown water.


Flooded streets of Fenghuang. (Pear Video screenshot)

One video shows the entire process, including the heavy downpour, the rising water levels, people struggling to walk against torrents of water, and finally, the muddy aftermath, with mangled storefronts and debris strewn everywhere. According to the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), the rain will continue until Thursday (July 2), with moderate to heavy rain in central and northern Hunan, cloudy skies in southeastern Hunan, and light to moderate showers or thunderstorms in other parts of the province.

Also on Tuesday, the CMA issued a heavy rain warning across China for the 30th straight day. It predicted that there will be heavy rainstorms in Chongqing, Guizhou, Hubei, and other parts of China, with short-term heavy rainfall (maximum hourly rainfall of 20-60 mm), and a high probability of severe convective weather such as thunderstorms and downbursts.

According to Liberty Times, the whole Yangtze River Basin is being drenched by continuous rain, while the Yellow River Basin has also entered the flood season. The Xiaolangdi Dam, which lies on the upper reaches of the Yellow River, began to discharge floodwaters on June 29 at a rate of 5,520 cubic meters per second.


Floodwaters rising in Fenghuang. (Internet image)

The water level of the hydrological station in Lanxi City on the upper reaches of the Qiantang River reached the warning level of 28 meters on Tuesday afternoon, reported China News Service. That evening, authorities announced that flooding had started to occur on the Qiantang River, and a level IV emergency was announced at 10:30 p.m.

Xinhua News Agency also reported that after the Three Gorges Dam on June 28 released a floodwater discharge at a rate of 34,700 cubic meters of water per second, flooding issues were exacerbated for many cities downstream. Yichang City in Hubei Province, which sits just 40 kilometers below the dam, saw extensive flooding on June 27, leading many residents to attribute it to unannounced releases from the dam's spillways.

The Zhejiang Water Resources Department also pointed out that 20 medium and large reservoirs in Zhejiang Province have exceeded the flood control water level. By Tuesday afternoon, the total storage of large and medium-sized reservoirs was 27.268 billion cubic meters, an increase of 3.803 billion cubic meters compared to before the plum rain season.

The onslaught of rain appears as if it will continue for at least another 10 days. The main rain belts are anticipated to range from the Sichuan Basin to Huanghuai, Jianghuai, Jianghan, and northern areas of Jiangnan.