CHENGDU, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- Southwest China's Sichuan Province on Tuesday activated the highest level of flood control response for the first time on record, as rain-induced floods ravaged parts of the province.
Continuous rainfall has caused 22 major rivers in Sichuan to exceed their flood warning levels. Swelling rivers have flooded some urban areas in the city of Ya'an and Leshan. Local authorities have evacuated more than 100,000 people affected by the disaster.
The province's flood control and drought relief headquarters raised the response to Level I, the highest in the four-tier emergency response system, at 5 a.m. Tuesday.
The Ya'an section of the Qingyi River was hit by a major flood rarely seen in a hundred years, while water levels in the entire Qingyi River basin, as well as the lower reaches of Dadu River and Minjiang River, are expected to exceed warning levels.
"I have never seen such a big flood on the (Qingyi) river. All the furniture on the first floor of my house was soaked in water on Monday night," said Wu Zhongjin, a resident of Caoba Township, Ya'an.
Liao Yuanbing, the town chief, said on Tuesday that nearly 20,000 people in the township had been evacuated to safety, as rescuers were still searching for people who might be trapped in low-lying places. Many local people were clearing water, mud and debris from their houses with shovels and brooms.
In Leshan, fire fighters sent in by a helicopter and speed boats are helping 1,020 people stranded on Fengzhou Island. Food and drinking water have been sent to the trapped residents, who were suffering from shortages nearly a day after the flood cut off the road traffic.
The Jiuzhaigou National Park, also known as the Jiuzhai Valley, a UNESCO world heritage site famed for its spectacular waterfalls, lush forests, serene plateau lakes and karst rock formations in the mountainous areas of Sichuan, announced temporary closure due to safety concerns.
Incessant torrential rainfall has blocked roads to the scenic spot, with part of the area flooded by a river, according to the site's administration.
Water levels in the main streams of Baishuijiang, Baihe and Tangzhu rivers in Jiuzhaigou County exceeded historic highs, with dykes breached in some sections and arterial traffic cut off, the county's flood control and drought relief headquarters said.
Floods also affected the Leshan Giant Buddha, another UNESCO world heritage site situated outside the city of Leshan. Flood water reached the toes of the Buddha statue for the first time since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
On Monday night, local police and scenic-spot staff placed sandbags at the platform under the Buddha's feet, building a dam-like structure to protect the statue.
However, by around 10 a.m. Tuesday, with the water levels of local rivers rapidly rising, the flood water had already covered the toes of the statue.
There is an old saying in Leshan: the city will be flooded entirely when the Giant Buddha's feet are flooded.
Leshan has activated its highest-level flood control response.
The Buddha statue, carved into a cliff in Leshan Mountain and overlooking three converging rivers, was built over a 90-year period starting in the year 713, during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
Chen Changming, vice mayor of Leshan, said that the top priorities of the city government are to protect the lives of those who have been resettled and carry out post-disaster epidemic prevention.
The Sichuan provincial meteorological observatory said the main rain belt is leaving the province. However, rain-soaked areas are still prone to geological disasters such as landslides and mudslides. Upstream areas of major rivers in the province are still likely to see floods. Enditem