Fri, Jun 20, 2008 - Page 5 News List

China completes the evacuation of 110,000 from the Sichuan quake zone

AP , BEIJING

China has finished evacuating 110,000 people from an area near the epicenter of last month’s earthquake in Sichuan Province amid fears of possible landslides triggered by annual heavy rains, state media reported yesterday.

Torrential rains have swept much of southern China in the past week, killing at least 63 people, swamping millions of hectares of farmland and causing billions of dollars in damage.

Calling the remote area a “high danger zone,” officials in Aba Prefecture have been relocating residents since Sunday, the Xinhua news agency said.

The evacuation ended at 8pm on Wednesday, just hours before heavy rains began, Xinhua said. The evacuees included 72,000 from hard-hit Wenchuan County, it said. The rest were from five nearby counties.

It was not clear if the villagers were already displaced because of the devastating magnitude-7.9 quake, which killed almost 70,000 people and left 5 million homeless.

Telephones at the disaster relief office in Aba Prefecture, which oversees the area, were not answered yesterday.

The government has already ordered many survivors to move several times because of potential danger from damaged homes, aftershocks and possible flooding from “quake lakes” that formed when huge piles of debris blocked rivers.

“The top priority of our relief work is to transfer the residents, whose lives are menaced by secondary disasters, to safer areas,” Wu Zegang (吳澤剛), deputy party secretary of Aba, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

He warned that the risks of flooding and landslides would increase with this month’s arrival of the rainy season.

So far, emergency workers have built 2,458 makeshift houses and 34,000 tents for the people evacuated because of the landslide threat, Xinhua said.

Aba Prefecture, inhabited mainly by Tibetans and members of the Qiang ethnic group, has 13 counties including Wenchuan.

This week’s heavy rains have submerged farms in the south, but the swollen rivers largely spared the tens of thousands of factories in the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong Province — a huge producer of computers, shoes, toys and other products for the global market.

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