China's massive Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest, remains in danger of being overtopped by the raging waters of the Yangtze River swollen to record heights by unrelenting and heavy torrential rains.
The water level at the Three Gorges reservoir reached 167.65 meters at 8:00 a.m. Saturday, the highest since the reservoir was built in 2003, said the Changjiang Water Resources Commission. The commission claims the devastating flood waters have begun to recede despite the ongoing heavy rains.
The hydroelectric gravity dam stands 181 meters (607 feet) tall and spans 2,335 meters (1.45 miles) across the Yangtze close to the town of Sandouping in Yiling District, Yichang, Hubei province. It's located in the upper reaches of Yangtze River.
An inflow of 75,000 cubic meters per second (cumecs) for nine hours into the reservoir was recorded at the peak of the flood on Aug. 20 along with a maximum outflow at 49,400 cumecs, according to Xinhua.
On Aug. 17, the Yangtze River (China's longest at 6,300 km) recorded its fifth flood of the year in its upper reaches. The new flood wave was caused by heavy rainfall three days after the fourth flood occurred on Aug. 14.
The danger from overtopping has forced local authorities to assure worried Chinese the dam isn't about to breach. The monsoon season raging across much of Asia has broken rainfall totals this year across China. The upper reaches of the Yangtze have been swollen by the worst flooding since 1981, noted the Ministry for Water Resources.
Chinese meteorologists said the fifth flood and a flood at the Jialing River caused severe flooding of Chongqing city in southwest China. It forced the city's emergency management bureau to declare an emergency evacuation of 251,000 people. No deaths were reported, however.
More than 100,000 people in Sichuan along the upper Yangtze's banks were evacuated last week after the province implemented its highest-level flood control response for the first time.
Due to the relentless monsoon rains, the threat of a dam breach remains serious. On the other hand, the Three Gorges Corporation operating the dam said the reservoir had prepared for the event by coordinating with other dams upstream to slow the torrent.
This year's rainfall will likely exceed the deluge in 1998, believes Zhang Boting, deputy secretary general at the China Society for Hydropower Engineering. The 1998 catastrophe led China to make the decision to build the Three Gorges Dam. Zhang said without the dam, the flood situation this year would be worse than 1998.
"The Three Gorges Dam has been doing a great job," said Zhang. "We should understand that fully taming the flow of any river, the Yangtze River included, is simply beyond the realm of engineering."