Sun, Jun 08, 2008 - Page 1 News List

No threat from quake lake: Chinese officials

AFP , MIANYANG, CHINA

A dam blocking a swollen “quake lake” threatening 1.3 million people in southwest China was in no danger of imminent collapse, state media said yesterday, as workers began to drain the water.

The Tangjiashan quake lake, which had built up after landslides blocked a river in the May 12 earthquake, had reached critical levels by Friday because of heavy rain.

Earlier yesterday, hundreds of police and soldiers opened a sluice channel to drain water from the lake and then began excavating another, state media said.

“The dam is in no danger of collapse in the foreseeable period,” Xinhua news agency quoted Fan Xiaoguang, deputy commander of the Chengdu Military Area Command, as saying.

The agency also said heavy rainfall, which could heighten the risk of flooding, was unlikely over the next 10 days. The danger of a serious aftershock that could collapse the dam was also remote, it said.

However, the lake’s water levels continued to climb slightly after workers opened the channel, said Rao Xiping, head of the government hydrometeorological station in Beichuan — one of the areas worst-hit by the quake.

Rao said the outgoing water flow needed to increase by more than double to drain the lake.

“But the dam is safe now,” Xinhua quoted Rao as saying.

The agency had earlier said water levels had risen by nearly 10cm from early morning to mid-afternoon yesterday, adding about 10 million cubic meters of water volume to the lake.

Soldiers and police dug the channel to stop the lake from bursting its banks and emptying 220 million cubic meters of water downstream.

The lake has become one of the most pressing issues in the aftermath of the quake that struck Sichuan Province, killing 69,134 and leaving millions homeless.

The 7.9-magnitude quake triggered massive landslides that blocked rivers and created more than 30 unstable “quake lakes,” with the Tangjiashan one on the Jianjiang river being considered the most dangerous.

Up to 1.3 million people were deemed to be in danger if the vast piles of rock and debris that have blocked the river for the past month burst open, officials had warned.

More than 250,000 people have been evacuated from the downstream area, but many others would have to be moved if the dam collapsed due to the pressure of the water, Xinhua said.

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