Floodwaters and high winds on the Songhua River in the northeast Chinese province of Jilin have ripped 12 dredges from anchor and threaten to destroy a major dam, Xinhua reported on Saturday.
The 12 dredges, the heaviest of which are more than 9 tons, on Saturday morning came free from their anchors and are heading toward the Fengman Hydroelectric Station, which was built some 70 years ago. The dredges are used for river gold mining.
Chinese authorities have sent more than 300 soldiers and several river boats to the area to avoid the dredges from slamming into the dam, which creates and retains a lake some 60 kilometers long.
Earlier on Thursday it was reported that 1,000 barrels containing methyl chloride, an extremely flammable gas, had washed into the river. An additional 4,000 empty barrels have also been washed downstream.
Russia fears the chemicals may contaminate the tributary of the Songhua, the Amur River, which feeds water to the Russian Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk.
Rescue teams are working to retrieve the barrels. Around 400 barrels have been recovered so far, state media said.
No chemicals have yet been found in the water, local officials said.
Ecologists are working around the clock to prevent any possible environmental damage, the Chinese Environmental Protection Ministry said.
The Russian sanitary watchdog said there was "no deviation from the norm" in the water quality.
The barrels washed away from the storage facilities of two chemical plants held over 160 metric tons of methyl chloride.
BEIJING, July 31 (RIA Novosti)