China’s quake lake keeps shrinking, but dangers remain

June 11th, 2008 - 1:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Mianyang (China), June 11 (Xinhua) The water level of China’s main quake lake continues to shrink through the sluice channels, but the risk of flood in downstream areas remains, a senior minister said Wednesday. The water level has fallen to 714.62 metres from the highest point of 743.1 metres with the sluice channels draining at a rate of 68.4 cubic metres of water per second as of Wednesday morning, according to the quake lake relief headquarters in Mianyang.

“There are still some 100 million cubic metres in the lake,” Water Resources Minister Chen Lei said, adding that dangers posed by the lake remained.

The lake was 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.

A man-made 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.

“Another major test for us is coming as the flood season approaches. The best situation is to completely clear the water from the Tangjiashan lake before the flood season,” the minister said.

Chen said experts with the ministry would fly to the lake area to conduct geological studies and assess the risks.

“The 20,000 relocated residents of Mianyang are expected to return home in another two days as the flow continues,” he said.

Liu Qibao, Communist Party chief of Sichuan province, said Tuesday that the country achieved a “decisive victory” by successfully draining water from the quake lake through the sluice channels and reducing the risk of flood to downstream areas.

Half of the water from the Tangjiashan quake lake has been discharged and the number of people under threat has dropped from 1.3 million to less than 50,000 by Tuesday evening, he said.

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