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China elevates quake-area flood threat

Officials devise plan for mass evacuation

Chinese troops raced to drain a swelling earthquake-formed lake named Tangjiashan by digging a diversion channel yesterday. Tangjiashan is the largest of more than 30 lakes that have formed behind landslides caused by the May 12 quake. Chinese troops raced to drain a swelling earthquake-formed lake named Tangjiashan by digging a diversion channel yesterday. Tangjiashan is the largest of more than 30 lakes that have formed behind landslides caused by the May 12 quake. (China Daily via reuters)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By William Foreman
Associated Press / May 31, 2008

CHENGDU, China - Chinese officials yesterday upgraded the threat posed by waters that are rising quickly behind a mass of rocks and earth that tumbled from a mountainside when the May 12 earthquake struck and blocked a river near dozens of villages.

Troops in Sichuan Province are moving almost 200,000 people, who are in the direct path of a potential flood, to higher ground. Many of those people are already living in tents or other temporary shelters because the quake destroyed their homes.

Officials also said they have a plan to evacuate 1.3 million people in and around Mianyang, a city that could face flooding, within five hours if the quake-made dam holding back a lake breaks.

An official with the press office of Mianyang City Quake Control and Relief Headquarters said authorities will run an evacuation drill for three days starting today.

The drill will consist of testing the command system of various levels of government officials to ensure that any order to evacuate - if it comes - would be passed quickly to everyone in the valley.

Officials said 197,500 people in the valley are being moved to higher ground, about 30,000 more than announced in recent days.

Hundreds of troops using bulldozers and excavating machines have worked around the clock at the earthquake-formed lake, named Tangjiashan. They are digging channels to drain the lake.

There was no sign that the lake dam was close to bursting yesterday, though officials say it could do so in coming days.

Tangjiashan is the largest of more than 30 lakes that have formed behind landslides caused by the quake, which also weakened man-made dams in mountainous areas.

In a separate development yesterday, the government said most of the 8,000 children found alone after the earthquake have been reunited with their parents.

About 1,000 children have not been spoken for, but the need to find adoptive families is now far less than earlier thought, said Ye Lu, a senior official at the Civil Affairs Department in hard-hit Sichuan Province.

"We are still getting thousands of calls per week asking about how to adopt, but we are still hoping to find the parents of these 1,000 kids," Ye said.

More than 18,000 people are listed as missing more than two weeks after the quake, which crumbled scores of towns and left 5 million people homeless across Sichuan Province.

The government yesterday raised the confirmed death toll to 68,858. Officials expect the final tally to top 80,000.

Many of the 5 million left homeless are living in tent camps or prefabricated housing being erected by troops.

Meanwhile, Japan said it had decided not to use military planes to deliver aid to the quake zone, after Beijing voiced uneasiness over the mission.

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