Torrential rains threaten the Three Gorges Dam in Hubei

Floods threaten dozens of cities and 400 million people. The current water level is 166 metres, whilst the summer limit is 145. More rain is forecast for tomorrow. Floods have displaced more than two million people. The waters of the Yangtze have reached the feet of the Leshan Giant Buddha.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Torrential rains are sparking fear over China’s Three Gorges dam, one of the largest in the world. In case of collapse, dozens of cities (including Shanghai) could be flooded, threatening the lives of 400 million people.

The great structure holds the waters of the Yangtze (Blue) River in Hubei, the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The dam, which is 185 metres tall and more than 2 kilometres wide, can hold 39.3 billion cubic metres of water and generate as much electricity as 20 nuclear power plants.

It took 18 years to build, and began operating at peak capacity in 2012. Roughly 1.3 million people were forcibly relocated for the project.

So far, the authorities have denied that the dam is in any way in danger, but the water level has reached 166 metres, far above the summer limit of 145 metres.

Heavy rains are expected tomorrow, which could worsen the situation. The area downstream has been flooded, and the dam cannot discharge too much water to remain within safe limits.

According to official data, flooding has affected about 55 million people, displacing more than 2 million. Property damage is estimated at 160 billion yuan (US$ 22.9 billion).

The Yangtze River Basin has suffered the most damage from this summer’s rains. The waters of the river, the world's third longest, have reached the feet of Leshan Giant Buddha (Sichuan, picture 2).

Carved out of a hillside round 1,200 years ago, the 71-metre statue is a UNESCO heritage site.