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Flooded Chinese lake reaches crest

A family make their way across a flooded street on a makeshift raft in suburban Chongqing in southwest China
A family make their way across a flooded street on a makeshift raft in suburban Chongqing in southwest China  

Staff and wires

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- The swollen Dongting Lake in central China has crested and slowly begun to ebb after hundreds of thousands of people worked around the clock to erect barriers around its shoreline, authorities said.

The lake reached a peak of 34.91 meters (114.5 feet) late Saturday, the government's Anti-Flooding Command Center said. The water level was down just a tenth of an inch early Sunday.

Despite a break in the area's recent heavy rains, the flooded Yangtze River had put pressure on the hundreds of miles of shoreline. The weather was clear Sunday, but more showers were expected before Tuesday.

Huge squads of farmers tossed sandbags, rocks and soil into leaks to prevent them becoming breaches. More than 800,000 others, including soldiers and volunteers, worked to buttress the levees and dikes with sandbags and organize the evacuation of residents near the lake, which is twice the size of Hong Kong.

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Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated.

Heavy rains have swamped Hunan province since August 11. Even more rain was dumped this past weekend when Tropical Storm Vongfong swept through the region. The storm also spread rain northward and westward over the provinces of Guandong, Yunnan and Guangxi, which lie just north of Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.

Officials declared a state of emergency Wednesday for Hunan province. Hundreds of thousands of people, their homes flooded or destroyed, have been evacuated from the region.

Hunan's capital, Changsha, has been flooded by one of the rivers that flows into Dongting Lake, about three hours to the north. There have been no reports of deaths from the current flooding around Dongting Lake, but more than 900 have been killed in flooding since China's monsoon season began three months ago.

-- CNN Beijing Bureau Chief Jaime FlorCruz contributed to this report.


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