President Xi Jinping urged more effective flood response measures and all-out efforts to protect people's lives and assets as China upgraded its national emergency response for flood control to level II, the second-highest in the country's four-tier response system.
In an instruction released on Sunday, Xi pointed out that waters in the Yangtze River and the Huaihe River, as well as the Dongting Lake, Poyang Lake and Taihu Lake, had exceeded warning levels, and the flood control situation is grim.
Xi said the severe flood disaster in Chongqing municipality and Jiangxi, Anhui, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces has caused casualties and losses of assets.
At this critical time for flood response work, Xi, who is also general secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and chairman of the Central Military Commission, instructed Party committees and governments of all levels to shoulder their responsibilities and take more measures to monitor the floods and relocate people in flood-hit areas.
Xi required the relevant authorities, including the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, the Ministry of Emergency Management and the Ministry of Water Resources, to enhance coordination and mobilize rescue forces and flood relief materials.
The People's Liberation Army and the People's Armed Police should take an active part in the flood relief work in the areas where they are stationed, he added.
Xi instructed the relevant authorities to make plans for rebuilding work and restoring normal life and production as soon as possible and to help prevent people in the flood-hit areas from falling back into poverty.
A total of 212 rivers nationwide have seen alert-triggering floods since July 4, and the water level in 19 of them has hit record highs, according to the Ministry of Water Resources.
Meanwhile, with the water level of Poyang Lake, China's largest freshwater lake, exceeding its previous record high seen in 1998, Jiangxi has activated its highest level emergency response on Saturday, and military forces are participating in local flood control efforts.
A total of 190 boats, 3,000 tents, 10,000 folding beds and 10,000 blankets have been sent to Jiangxi to facilitate flood control and disaster relief work, according to the Ministry of Emergency Management.
Early on Sunday morning, the water level at Poyang Lake's Xingzi hydrological station had risen to 22.53 meters, 1 centimeter higher than the record in 1998, according to the province's water resources department.
Incessant downpours and upstream inflows have kept the water level in the lake above its danger level since July 5, it said.
The water level of the Jiujiang section of the Yangtze River was 3 meters above the danger level on Sunday and was still rising, local authorities said.
Faced with the grim situation, the government in Jiujiang, Jiangxi, decided on Sunday to evacuate residents from its Jiangzhou Island. All people younger than 18 or older than 65 will be evacuated before Monday. People aged between 18 and 65, apart from those who are sick or disabled, have to stay to help fight the flood.
From July 6 to Sunday, floods had affected about 5.5 million people in Jiangxi, with 475,000 people being evacuated from flood-prone areas.
Floods also damaged over 510,000 hectares of crops and caused direct economic losses of 8.13 billion yuan ($1.16 billion) in Jiangxi, the headquarters said.
After the activation of the highest flood-control response level on Saturday in Jiangxi, over 53,000 people were mobilized to fight the flood, including 6,525 from the Jiangxi Provincial Military Command and 2,537 from the People's Armed Police.
"We will prioritize safeguarding people's lives and make every effort to fight against these historic floods," said Xu Weiming, secretary-general of the Jiangxi Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.
Other provinces in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River have also lifted their response level. The Jiangsu Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters activated the second-highest response level for the Jiangsu section of the Yangtze and Taihu Lake region from 4 pm on Sunday.
The water level in Taihu Lake has remained above its warning level for 15 days as it continues to rise. It reached 4.45 meters at 8 am on Sunday, 1 millimeter higher than it was 24 hours before and 0.65 meters above its danger level.
A forecast from the National Meteorological Center said the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze will continue to be lashed by rainfall before Thursday. After that, precipitation in the region will tend to weaken.
Wang Jian in Jiangxi contributed to this story.