Special report: Reconstruction After Earthquake
An aerial photo taken on May 28, 2008 shows the Tangjiashan earthquake-induced lake near Beichuan County in southwest China's Sichuan Province. The earthquake-induced lake is at risk of bursting and threatens thousands of people downstream. Some 30 excavators are working non-stop to dig a diversion channel to drain the lake, which is expected to complete within 5 to 7 days if weather permits. A large number of residents in Mianyang City are prepared to evacuate. (Xinhua/Li Gang)
MIANYANG/TANGJIASHAN, Sichuan, May 28 (Xinhua) --
Emergency workers are scrambling to get residents downstream of a rising
quake-created lake ready to go if the water body bursts.
Tangjiashan lake, formed by landslides that blocked a
river known as the Jianjiang after the May 12 quake, is at risk of breaching its
Every resident from the targeted areas in Mianyang, a
hard-hit city in the May 12 quake, has been kept well-informed of the emergency
evacuation plans through repeated drills and public announcements, including
routes for evacuation, directions to safe areas and locations of temporary
shelters, said Tan Li, Party Secretary of Mianyang.
"The efforts are aimed at getting all the 1.3 million
residents on the move within four hours in case the quake lake bank fully opens,
and zero deaths in the process of evacuation. Otherwise, it will mean a breach
of duty on our part as government employees," said Tan, who is also chief of
Mianyang City Quake Control and Relief Headquarters.
To this end, many soldiers, armed police and security
officers are on standby and will go door-to-door to look for laggards in case of
emergency, according to Tan.
Meanwhile, hundreds of workers, using 40 large pieces
of earth-moving equipment including bulldozers, have been working non-stop on
top of the Tangjiashan barrier, constructing a diversion channel.
Yang Hailiang, a leading on-site rescue operation
officer, told Xinhua that one third of the sluice was finished thanks to factors
including fine weather on Wednesday and airlifts of machinery and other
Water resources workers have been closely monitoring
hydrological data concerning Tangjiashan, one of 35 such lakes, around the
The lake is some 3.2 kilometers away from the seat of
Beichuan County, the area worst hit in the devastating quake on May 12. It is
inaccessible by road and can only be reached by foot or air.
The lake holds about 130 million cubic meters of
water, said Liu Ning, the Ministry of Water Resources chief engineer, who is at
Tangjiashan to oversee the diversion work. Its water level was 727.02 meters on
Tuesday, up 1.82 meters from Monday and only about 25 meters below the lowest
part of the barrier.
However, the rise in the water level at the lake has
slowed down. From 7 p.m. on Tuesday to 7 a.m. on Wednesday, it only rose by 83
centimeters, according to Yang Hailiang, a leading on-site rescue operation
At least 50,000 cubic meters of debris would have to
be removed to build the diversion channel on the blockage body. Rescuers,
however, were aiming to remove 100,000 cubic meters of debris if the weather
Altogether, 158,000 people threatened by the swollen
quake lake in 169 communities of 33 townships, Mianyang, were evacuated to safe
ground as of Wednesday in line with an emergency plan drawn up for the
contingency of one third of the Tangjiashan lake volume bursting its banks.
Two other plans require the relocation of 1.2 million
people if half of the lake volume is released or 1.3 million if the barrier
The diversion channel won't be in place until June 5,
experts with the Mianyang quake relief headquarters said.