China’s largest quake lake shrinks as drainage picks up

June 10th, 2008 - 5:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Mianyang, June 10 (Xinhua) The water level in the Tangjiashan quake-lake in southwest China’s Sichuan province is likely to drop below the danger line Tuesday, as accumulated water flowed down the sluice channels. By Tuesday afternoon, the water level had dropped to 725.8 meters, down about 18 meters in the past 24 hours, emergency rescue headquarters said.

More than 250,000 people in low-lying areas in the downstream Mianyang have been relocated under a plan based on the assumption that one-third of the lake volume breached the dam.

Xinhua reporters in Jiangyou, a city sandwiched between Beichuan and Mianyang, saw trees, barrels, TVs, fridges and, occasionally bodies of quake victims floating in the roaring flood water.

The drainage of the Tangjiashan Lake had lowered the danger on the lower reaches, but the emergency headquarters was still on alert for possible landslides and dam bursts, said Commander-in-Chief Jiang Jufeng.

Hydrological workers had already observed cracks in the dam, and helicopters were arranged to evacuate all the emergency workers, mostly soldiers with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the armed police.

More than 200 armed police officers worked round the clock for four days to drain the lake. Once it overflowed, it could threaten some one million residents living on the lower reaches.

A manmade spillway started to drain lake water Saturday morning and military engineers fired short-range missiles several times Sunday and Monday to blast boulders obstructing the outflow.

The Tangjiashan quake lake, formed after quake-triggered landslides from the Tangjiashan mountain, blocked the Tongkou river running through Beichuan county, one of the worst-hit areas in the May 12 quake.

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