China record floods wet feet of Leshan Giant Buddha

Published
image source, Reuters

A giant statue of Buddha in China has had its toes dampened by floodwater for the first time since the 1940s.

The 71m-tall statue, a Unesco heritage site, was carved out of a rockface in Sichuan province around the eighth century AD.

It is normally high above the waterline, but the area has been hit by the worst flooding in 70 years.

More than 100,000 people have had to be moved to safety.

The statue is a hugely popular attraction and often included in cruises along the nearby Yangtze river and Three Gorges.

State media said 180 tourists had be rescued from the site as waters rose.

image source, Getty Images
image captionThe statue normally sits high above the waterline, as seen here in February
image source, Getty Images
image captionTourists and pilgrims arrive by boat to burn offerings at the Buddha's feet
image source, Getty Images
image captionThe last time the toes - each bigger than a person - got wet was 1949
image source, Getty Images
image captionBut last week waters reached the base of the statue and kept rising

According to the Xinhua state news agency, a traditional local saying holds that if the Buddha's feet get wet, Leshan will flood too.

Sichuan province has activated its highest level emergency response after weeks of heavy rain caused record high water levels, with no sign of it ending soon.

image source, Getty Images
image captionRescuers have been despatched to help people evacuate from at-risk areas

Flood alerts are in place for provinces around the Yangtze, Yellow, Hai, Songhua and Liao rivers, with warnings of possible landslides.

image source, Getty Images
image captionChongqing has already battled several waves of flooding this summer

The statue, just outside Chengdu, is a hugely popular attraction and often included in cruises along the nearby Yangtze.

Officials have warned that huge volumes of water are building up behind the Three Gorges dam - a massive hydroelectric project on the Yangtze.

The Ministry of Water Resources has warned this could lead to severe flooding upstream, including the major city of Chongqing

.