No more life risks as technology bolsters flood-control measures

Xinhua
Holding a smartphone, He Xuehao, director of the flood control office in Anqing City, knows everything about the city's real-time precipitation and hydrologic conditions.
Xinhua

Holding a smartphone, He Xuehao, director of the flood control office in Anqing City, east China’s Anhui Province, knows everything about the city’s real-time precipitation and hydrologic conditions.

Anqing is situated in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, China’s longest waterway. Every summer, flood season arrives just in time to worry flood control officials like He.

In the summer of 1998, the Yangtze saw some if its worst flooding, causing more than 1,000 deaths.

Determining rising water levels is one of the biggest challenges for the flood control office.

He still remembers that 20 years ago, when he was just 16, he had to patrol dikes every two hours, with a bamboo pole, a flashlight, and an umbrella, for days on end.

“I had to row a boat and even swim to the mid-stream to measure water levels. It was troublesome and extremely dangerous,” he recalled.

Thanks to the advancement of technology in flood control, officials like He no longer have to risk their lives to measure water levels in rivers.

“The automatic observation and flood prediction system achieves full coverage of the Yangtze — the mainstream, primary tributaries, large reservoirs, key medium reservoirs and lakes along the river,” He said.

In Anqing alone, more than 600 stations measure and report rainfall automatically, and 210 water-level gauging stations provide precise and timely monitoring data, which helps officials form and implement emergency plans.

In addition, a series of flood control equipment has been put into use. 

In 2016, a collapsible mobile “water plugging wall” with a waterproof canvas bag at its core was used to fill dike breaches in Anqing. In just 10 minutes, the “wall” can swell up to 6 meters, serving as a water barrier.

“China has comprehensively strengthened its flood resistance ability in the past 20 years,” He said.

In 2010, flood control headquarters in neighboring Jiangxi Province used satellite remote sensing to evaluate flood situations and dispatch rescue teams to the worst-hit areas. Two years later, drones were used to monitor water levels.

This year, the province purchased five units of drainage equipment that can adapt to different environments such as cities and farmland. Seven remote-control rescue robots also came into service in Jiangxi. Shaped like lifeboats, these robots can evacuate three to four people stranded by the flood and deliver relief supplies.

“We have set up a compete flood prevention communication system, which can automatically send warning messages to residents if a potential risk of flood is detected,” said Wang Bin, secretary general of Huaihe River Flood Control Headquarters. “Technology improves prediction accuracy, increases rescue efficiency, and reduces losses caused by flooding.”

Huaihe is another flood-prone river that originates from central China’s Henan Province.

With the advanced flood observation system and the introduction of cutting-edge equipment, floods are no longer as life-threatening as they used to be before, He added.

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