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Natural disasters

China's Three Gorges Dam faces record high water levels

Severe floods threaten economic recovery from coronavirus

CHONGQING -- China's massive Three Gorges Dam was on track Wednesday to reach record high water levels this week as torrential rains caused heavy flooding upstream on the Yangtze River, threatening commerce along the country's longest river.

Riverside roads have flooded in the industrial city of Chongqing, forcing many businesses to shut down. Chen Min'er, the city's Communist Party secretary and a close aide to President Xi Jinping, urged efforts prioritizing the protection of people's lives and assets.

Major automobile and display panel factories are located on higher ground away from the Yangtze, and are not believed to have suffered a direct effect to operations. Isuzu Motors continues to produce trucks and engines in Chongqing as usual. Honda Motor, which makes engines in Chongqing and assembles vehicles in Wuhan, said it has not seen any effect from the flooding at this time.

Still, shipments via the river were halted on Tuesday, which could delay deliveries of certain products.

Inflow into the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest hydroelectric dam, is expected to soon top its record of 76,000 cu. meters per second, state broadcaster CCTV reported. The dam is discharging a record 48,000 cu. meters per second from 10 sluice gates. But water levels are still expected to reach a new high of 166 meters -- significantly above the 145-meter threshold that leaves safe room for further flooding -- as soon as Thursday.

Roads along the Yangtze River and its tributaries have flooded in Chongqing. (Photo by Shunsuke Tabeta)

The dam, which was completed in 2006, is designed for a maximum water level of 175 meters.

Increased discharge from the dam following heavy rains just last month led to flooding downstream in Hubei and Anhui provinces. The current boost could result in further damages.

Xi visited Anhui province on Tuesday, the China Daily reported. The president called for the country to modernize the way it prepares for and fights floods. 

"In this fight, we should respect nature, conform to the laws of nature and live in harmony with nature," he said.

Many of China's factories were forced to halt production in February and March due to the coronavirus outbreak. While the economy has been recovering since April, a disaster along the Yangtze, where industries like automobiles, semiconductors and display panels are based, could set things back.

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