Chinese state media is taking some heat – even from within the tightly-controlled Chinese Internet – for minimizing the danger of a flood disaster that has already ruined millions of lives, and threatens to unleash an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe if the massive Three Gorges hydroelectric dam fails.
A social media post from the state-run Xinhua news agency on Wednesday compared the killer floodwaters to “naughty kids who want to go out and play.”
Taiwan News quoted a Chinese user on the WeChat social media platform slamming Xinhua for using its own WeChat account to trivialize the danger from the floods.
“It’s a shame for the media to portray disasters in an amusing way,” the critical user said, referring to a Xinhua post that tried to anthropomorphize this season’s once-in-a-century floods by imagining the spirits of nature as bratty children on a mischievous rampage. The Xinhua post was reportedly pulled down after the backlash.
Residents of the Yangtze River region are bracing for another round of floods as the Chinese government estimates damage from the 2020 monsoon season is approaching $23 billion. 93 of the Yangtze’s tributaries have flooded and the great central river itself is threatening to surge against the Three Gorges Dam, which is the last line of defense for millions of people and billions of dollars in assets.
The Yangtze River is Asia’s largest at 3,900 miles in length and is a vital source of water and hydroelectric power for an immense population. The region has hundreds of large and small dams, plus thousands of reservoirs to handle heavy rains, but the current monsoon season has overwhelmed the entire system. The water level in the Three Gorges reservoir reached a record high last week, cresting just a little over ten meters below the 175-meter maximum rated height for the dam.
UPI reported on Thursday that Chinese citizens suffering through the floods are increasingly exasperated with dictator Xi Jinping’s refusal to visit the area and with their state media’s reluctance to show the full extent of the damage, so they are uploading their own videos that show cities wiped out, homes destroyed, and priceless historic monuments submerged underwater.
According to UPI and Taiwan News, the Chinese people are growing increasingly suspicious that their rulers are not being honest with them about the danger to the Three Gorges Dam. Several alarming discharges involving “huge streams” of floodwater have been seen at the facility, despite assurances that all operations are proceeding normally. Three Gorges officials are making the first public admissions that the dam has suffered structural displacement and deformation, although they insist all of the damage falls within safe parameters.
“Beyond the integrity of the dam, many have questioned the structure’s purported purpose of flood control, given the extensive flooding recently seen both above and below the dam. Some Chinese citizens immediately downstream of the dam in cities such as Yichang, which has been hit by severe floods this year, suspect that authorities have been releasing more water from the dam than they are willing to admit to protect it rather than people from harm,” Taiwan News added.
China’s state-controlled Xinhua news service ran a report on Thursday conceding that some historic sites and hundreds of “cultural relics” are in danger. Some of these relics cannot be moved to rescue them from flooding, and some are highly vulnerable to decay from prolonged exposure to water.
Officials at one cultural facility near the city of Jiujiang worried that the entire complex could be wiped out if nearby Poyang Lake floods any more severely. The site has been intermittently operating since 1723 and represents a major source of tourist income for the area. A district official said the roads leading to the site are washed out and some of its buildings have been underwater for weeks.