China’s quake lake keeps draining, high alert remains

June 8th, 2008 - 4:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Mianyang(China), June 8 (Xinhua) Draining of the dangerous Tangjiashan “quake lake” in Southwest China’s Sichuan province has been continuing since Saturday but a high alert remains in place. Army engineers have fired missiles to blast boulders in a man-made sluice channel to accelerate the draining.

A team of Xinhua reporters saw the sluice channel widened by three meters to about eight meters to improve the flow of water.

Police and army staff were still working to widen the outlet with the help of bulldozers and excavators. The workers were also digging a second channel on the other side of the quake lake.

“Generally speaking, construction of the lake’s drainage projects goes on well, but the lake remains dangerous for hundreds of thousands of people downstream,” said General Ge Zhenfeng, deputy chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), who is supervising the relief work at the site.

“It will take us a few more days to eliminate the potential danger of the lake,” said the general.

Some 600 armed police and army’s engineering wing worked for six days to dig a 475-meter channel to divert water from the lake.

Rao Xiping, head of the Beichuan hydrometeorological station, told Xinhua the lake dam remained safe as the drainage went on.

“We found no obvious expansion of the sluice holes nor cracks on the dam. There is no sign of dam collapse either,” said Rao, adding that the staff of his station and soldiers are keeping 24-hour watch along the dam.

Meanwhile, Water Resources Minister Chen Lei warned that increasing rainfall, aftershocks, landslides and leakage were still threatening the lake’s barrier.

Landslides could take place on mountains not far from the lake, which might pour another 17 million cubic meters of rocks and earth into the lake. If it happens, the lake’s barrier would immediately burst and workers on the barrier could be swept away, he said.

The Tangjiashan quake lake was formed after a massive quake-triggered landslide from Tangjiashan Mountain blocked the Tongkou River, which ran through the Beichuan county, one of the worst-hit areas in the quake.

Holding more than 220 million cubic meters of water, the swollen lake is the largest of more than 30 quake lakes in Sichuan following the May 12 quake, posing a threat to 1.3 million people downstream.

More than 250,000 people in low-lying areas in Mianyang have been relocated as a precaution against possible flooding by the lake.

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