China raised its flood response alert on Sunday to the second highest level as heavy rain battered regions along the Yangtze River, with the eastern provinces of Jiangsu and Jiangxi among the worst hit, state media reported.
Flooding in the Poyang county of Jiangxi pushed water levels of Lake Poyang, China’s biggest freshwater lake, to above 22.52 metres (74 feet), a historical high and well above the alert level of 19.50 metres (64 feet).
By Saturday evening, provincial military authorities had dispatched thousands of soldiers to help bolster nearly 9 km (6 miles) of the lake’s banks, state television said.
China has a four-tier flood control emergency response system, with level one representing the most severe.
So far this year, some 141 people have died or gone missing in the floods, which have ravaged 3.53 million hectares (8.72 million acres) of farmland and flattened 28,000 homes. Economic losses total 82.23 billion yuan ($11.75 billion), state news agency Xinhua reported on Sunday.
According to the Ministry of Water Resources, 212 rivers have exceeded alerting levels since early July, with 19 of them rising to historical highs.
China has blamed unusual weather conditions, including humidity carried from the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, as the immediate cause, but it has also said long-term changes in climate patterns have made it more vulnerable.