Chinese soldiers prepared yesterday to blow up earthquake debris blocking a river where rising waters threatened to inundate disaster victims.
Two weeks after the magnitude 7.9 earthquake hit central Sichuan Province, lakes formed by obstructed rivers clogged by landslides complicated the recovery efforts that were already straining to find shelter for millions of homeless.
One of the most powerful aftershocks since the May 12 quake killed at least eight people on Sunday, the Cabinet said, adding to the death toll that the government has said would surpass 80,000.
To fight the flood risk, 1,800 soldiers arrived yesterday on foot at the new Tangjiashan lake in Beichuan County, each carrying 10kg of explosives to blast through the debris, Xinhua news agency said.
The lake is 3.2km upstream from the center of Beichuan County. Thousands of people who remained there after the initial earthquake have been evacuated in recent days as a precaution.
With weather clearing that had prevented helicopter flights, an earth mover was also lifted in the area to help remove debris, cable TV footage showed.
But thunderstorms were forecast for parts of Sichuan later yesterday and today, the China Meteorological Administration said, adding that they “could increase the risks posed by river blockages in some quake-hit areas.” The backed-up lake is one of several dozen in Sichuan.
In Anxian County, a landslide blocked the Chaping river, submerging Shuangdian village.
Residents say the lake has been rising by about 2.5m a day.
“The water was covering the road, and two days later I could not see the roof of my house anymore,” said Liu Zhongfu, 31, a truck driver who built his two-story wooden house himself, standing on a mountain overlooking the new lake. A sofa and bits of wood that were once part of houses could be seen floating among the debris in the milky green water.
Liu was working away from home when the earthquake hit. His wife, three-month-old daughter and 60-year-old mother were all unhurt.
Water there was backed up 3km along the river, said Wang Li (王力), county Chinese Communist Party secretary.
Elsewhere, 600 people were voluntarily evacuated from Guanzhuang in Qingchuan County because of landslide worries.
“There’s no danger for this exact moment from flooding but we are very worried because the whole mountain is loose,” said Ma Jian (馬建), a local official.
Problems with dams and reservoirs from the earthquake and its aftershocks have also been reported in other provinces.
The Water Resources Ministry said that three small reservoirs in Shaanxi Province, north of Sichuan, were in danger of collapse after the strong aftershock on Sunday. A total 2,383 reservoirs were in danger across the country, the ministry said.
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