China is experiencing crucial times. Torrential rains have caused devastating floods in the central region of the Asian country. Three dams have already collapsed and another one has been dynamited in view of its imminent collapse.
The dead are in the dozens and all eyes are now on the world’s largest dam: the Three Gorges.
Official figures put the death toll at at least 20, but it is believed to be many more.
Some 200,000 people have already been evacuated in Zhengzhou, a populous city of 10 million inhabitants.
Zhengzhou is the capital of Henan and received a year’s worth of rain in three days.
On Tuesday, a red alert was issued for flooding.
This is the heaviest rainfall since data collection began 60 years ago.
The strong currents created by the floods swept cars and people through the streets, as The New York Times reports.
Images that went viral on social networks show subway passengers up to their necks in water in a carriage, clinging to the handles.
Authorities closed the flooded transport and suspended hundreds of flights at the city’s airport.
Seasonal rains cause flooding in China every year, but the threat has grown in recent years due to the construction of dams.
In fact, this is one of the points that has set off alarm bells for both the authorities and the population.
Two dams have collapsed this Sunday due to heavy rains in the northern region of Inner Mongolia. They are the Yongan and Xinfa dams, located in the city-prefecture of Hulun Buir.
As reported by flood control authorities, the emergency level was activated, and people who might be affected by the landslides were evacuated.
But there is more.
A dam in central Henan province also collapsed. It is the Guojiaju dam.
In addition, in an emergency operation, the People’s Liberation Army blew up a dam located in Luoyang, a city-prefecture in the same Henan province with about 7 million inhabitants.
The regional army command had warned in a statement that the Yihetan dam could break at any moment as a 20-meter breach had opened up.
Against this backdrop, all eyes are on the Three Gorges Dam. And no wonder.
It is the largest hydroelectric plant in the world in terms of size and installed capacity.
The dam, located in the Yiling District of Hubei province, holds back water at 91 meters above river level at its maximum capacity. This is equivalent to an approximate weight of 42 billion concentrated tons.
Millions of people live downstream of the dam in many major cities such as Wuhan, Nanjing, and Shanghai, located along the Yangtze River.
A collapse of the mega-dam would cause a catastrophe of inconceivable dimensions.
Last summer, China battled weeks of flooding along the Yangtze River that killed hundreds of people and displaced millions more.
The rains at the time filled the Three Gorges Dam to its highest level since it opened in 2003, raising fears that the dam itself could fail.
And that is why the fear is now even greater, considering that four dams have already collapsed or been dynamited.
According to the latest reports, the Chinese military is already guarding the Three Gorges Dam. There will surely be more news in the coming hours.