China’s quake lake shrinks as drainage starts (Lead)

June 10th, 2008 - 10:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Mianyang (China), June 10 (Xinhua) China Tuesday 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, a senior official said. 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, Liu Qibao, Communist Party chief of the province, said.

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.

As a result of two massive blasts on Monday evening, which broke through the “bottleneck” in the spillway, the water outflow speeded up drastically Tuesday compared with 80 cubic meters Monday night.

By 5 p.m. Tuesday, the influx and outflow of the lake reached a balance, the lake emergency rescue headquarters said, adding that the dam was more secure now with release of the water.

As the lake was posing a threat to people living downstream, more than 250,000 people in low-lying areas 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, earlier reported to have seen trees, barrels, Television sets, fridges and, occasionally bodies of quake victims floating in the roaring flood water.

Meanwhile, search and rescue troops on Tuesday found the wreckage of a military helicopter that crashed 10 days ago in the nearby Yingxiu area of Sichuan province.

Nineteen people were on board, five crew and 14 passengers, when the helicopter crashed in foggy conditions May 31.

The helicopter had carried epidemic prevention experts to quake-hit Li county, and was returning with people too seriously injured to be moved by land.

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