In a city facing historic floods, three generations fight
Updated 16:06, 07-Aug-2020
Zhou Jiaxin
Floods engulf Central China's Wuhan. /Xinhua

Floods engulf Central China's Wuhan. /Xinhua

Wuhan on Friday saw water level at one of the Yangtze River's crucial hydraulic stations drop below warning level after it hit record highs above danger point in the wake of continuous downpours and discharges from dams upstream since June.

But the city once hard-hit by the coronavirus earlier in the year is still exercising extreme caution, with more than 32,500 local voluntary patrollers inspecting dikes and reducing flood risks along China's longest river.

Zhou Jiahe, 22, said it's now his turn to safeguard the homeland following the older generations, noting that his grandfather fought the 1954 food and his father patrolled the dike during the 1998 flood.

Zhou is assigned to look for any seepage, piping and termite mounds at the landside, the opposite side to the riverside of the dike where other two patrollers look for the whirlpool before it causes piping, as well as possible subsidence.

The team with six members are in charge of the area stretching 400 meters long.

"We use bamboo poles to locate dangers below coverings and frighten away snakes," He said. "Rubber boots are a must during the rainy season, and they protect us from bugs and other creepy crawlies."

The clerk volunteered to patrol in early July - eight hours a day, three to four days a week. When arriving there, he said the waterside was often around 20 meters away from the top of the dike. "The increase this year has been much more severe."


But Zhou's father says residents of Wuhan who experienced the 1998 flood know the deluge this year is no worse than before - at least there's not been any water-logging. 

Despite the difficulties, reinforcements over the decades have made the dike stronger and twice the size it was during the heyday of Zhou's grandfather in the 1950s.

Back then, the levee was made up of soil unlike the cement of today.

"The floods in 1954 tipped over the dike and submerged our villages," said the grandfather Zhou Songling. "The landside suffered more seepages. Some of us were bitten by snakes."

Then the government pledged to secure the city by establishing half of the country's ten water engineering projects, the 84-year-old said. "And Wuhan was saved."

"The dike was rebuilt over the generations, by my grandfather and my father as well," said Zhou Jiahe, adding he feels assured about the dike as older generations reinforced it through flood fights over the past decades.

"We guarded the dike for months, as water receded slowly," Zhou's father recalled, noting the team won't stop until the water drops below the risk level though authorities have lowered the flood alert.

Zhou says the past month may have been difficult, but for inspiration he turns not just to the older generation,  he also turns to the people of Wuhan who have stepped forward to help out no matter the dangers.

(Credit: Images showing Wuhan's flood relief work at the Yangtze River and drone footage are provided by Hubei TV.)