Thousands of Chinese earthquake victims fled areas near the epicenter yesterday, fearful of floods from rivers blocked by landslides rattled loose in this week’s powerful temblor.
Soldiers carried older people out of Beichuan Town — one of the areas hit hardest by the magnitude 7.9 quake, whose confirmed death toll jumped to nearly 29,000 — while survivors cradled babies on a road jammed with vehicles and people.
A policeman said that rescue officials were worried water from a choked river would inundate the town.
“The river was jammed up by a landslide; now that may burst. That is what we are worried about,” the policeman said as he hurried by, not giving his name.
“I’m very scared. I heard that the water will be crashing down here,” said Liang Xiao, one of the people fleeing. “If that happens, there will be over 10m of water over our heads.”
Xinhua news Agency said earlier that a lake in Beichuan County “may burst its bank at any time.”
Residents left for higher ground, but 46 seriously injured were still at risk, the agency said.
Further north, a mountain sheared off by the quake cut the Qingzhu River and covered three villages in a valley near Qingchuan.
No traces remained of the villages, swallowed up by a huge mound of earth, behind which water from the river was backing up.
Xinhua said more than 2,000 people were evacuated from near that area.
The confirmed death toll rose yesterday to 28,881, Cabinet spokesman Guo Weimin (郭衛民) said. The government has previously said at least 50,000 people were believed killed in the disaster.
More than 10,600 people remained buried in Sichuan Province, the regional government said, according to Xinhua.
Survivors were still being found under destroyed buildings five days after the quake, as the rescue operation grew to 148,000 soldiers and police.
Rescue teams from South Korea, Singapore and Russia began work yesterday, joining Japanese specialists.