Flood fears force huge evacuation

(China Daily/chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2008-05-28 06:46

Just two weeks after a devastating tremor in which more than 68,000 lives were perished, a pair of powerful aftershocks on Tuesday collapsed hundreds of thousands of more homes in Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces, adding to the suffering of millions of local residents.

As the frequency of follow-up earthquakes does not bode well, a rising number of rural and urban households in Sichuan, its northern Shaanxi and eastern Chongqing municipality, have chosen to sleep outdoors in makeshift tents.

Many of the more than 400,000 homes that collapsed in Qingchuan County, Sichuan, and Ningqiang County, Shaanxi, on Tuesday, were somewhat already damaged by the initial May 12 magnitude 8.0 killer earthquake. Several dozens are reportedly hurt. The two quakes, on a magnitude of 5-plus and only half an hour apart, were a reminder that the crisis in the region and anxieties of the residents are unlikely to dissipate any time soon.

Flood fears force huge evacuation

More than 150,000 people who face the threat of flooding, should an earthquake-created dam near Beichuan burst its banks, were evacuated last night even as engineers were digging a diversion channel to prevent flooding.

An aerial view of Tangjiashan lake (in red box) near Beichuan county May 27, 2008. Troops were digging a diversion channel to prevent the lake from bursting its banks and threatening more misery to millions of people downstream. [China Daily]

Local authorities said they evacuated 158,000 people by midnight Tuesday in case Tangjiashan lake - formed when landslides blocked Jianjiang River after the May 12 quake - overflows its banks.

According to contingency plans, up to 1.3 million people from 33 townships of Mianyang city could be relocated if the lake barrier collapsed entirely.

Premier Wen Jiabao told a meeting of the State Council quake relief headquarters Tuesday that handling the quake lakes is the "most pressing" task at present.

The water level in the Tangjiashan lake has kept rising and the water diversion channel won't be effective till June 5, experts said Tuesday.

Tangjiashan lake was holding 130 million cu m of water - or the volume of water in about 50,000 Olympic-size swimming pools - said Liu Ning, chief engineer of the Ministry of Water Resources who was at the site to oversee the diversion work.

More than 600 engineers and soldiers were working nonstop at the lake site to dig the channel.

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