Some 3,000 barrels holding a total of 5 tons of unidentified chemicals were washed into the Songhua river on Wednesday from Jilin’s Xinyaqiang chemical plant

Officials in north-eastern China cut the public water supply to 4.3 million residents of Jilin city after a flood washed thousands of barrels of chemicals into a major river, state media said on Thursday.

Some 3,000 barrels holding a total of 5 tons of unidentified chemicals were washed into the Songhua river on Wednesday from Jilin’s Xinyaqiang chemical plant, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Earlier reports said the plastic barrels from the plant contained “explosive” chemicals but gave no details.

Another 4,000 empty barrels floated into the river, which was cordoned off by workers trying to recover the barrels.

The water supply was cut off in Jilin early Wednesday afternoon and authorities had “yet to indicate when it will resume”, the China Daily newspaper said on Thursday.

The workers had only recovered about 400 of the 7,000 barrels by early Thursday, the agency said.

Summer floods and landslides have killed at least 928 people across China since April, with 477 missing, the government said on Wednesday.

The floods have destroyed 875,000 homes and forced the evacuation of 9.61 million people in 28 provinces.

Rescuers were evacuating about 30,000 people cut off by floods on Wednesday in the town of Kouqian, near Jilin in north-eastern China.

Tens of thousands more were evacuated from areas around the central city of Wuhan on Wednesday before the expected arrival of two flood peaks along the swollen Yangtze and one of its main tributaries, the Han, on Thursday.

The two rivers converge in Wuhan, sparking fears that the flood peaks of the two rivers could submerge the city on Thursday.

The water level in the Han river is forecast to reach 30.5 metres near Wuhan on Thursday, the highest level for some 20 years, while the Yangtze is also expected to exceed its danger level of 27.3 metres.

Officials planned to divert some of the floodwater from the Yangtze to low-lying farmland that serves as an emergency reservoir near Wuhan, the first use of the diversion since 2005, reports said.

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