PRC soldiers blast debris hampering draining operation

Military blew-up wooden houses to accelerate water flow to diversion channel of quake lake

Floating objects are seen obstructing water drainage from the Tangjiashan "quake lake" are destroyed in quake-hit Mianyang, Sichuan Province, China, o...

Floating objects are seen obstructing water drainage from the Tangjiashan "quake lake" are destroyed in quake-hit Mianyang, Sichuan Province, China, o...

Soldiers blew up wooden houses and other debris yesterday in a lake formed by China's deadly earthquake to speed the flow of water into a diversion channel and ease the threat of flooding for more than 1 million people in the sprawling disaster zone.
The Tangjiashan "quake lake" continued to swell even as water gushed down the spillway built after two weeks of frantic work by engineers and soldiers. Authorities were still on high alert, although the draining operation was progressing smoothly, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
"There is a lot of debris in the upper reaches, and some are quite big, like wooden houses. So now we have asked soldiers to eliminate the debris by using explosives or other means," Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei told China Central Television.
Soldiers hurled explosives at pieces of splintered wood drifting in one section, according to TV footage. Troops also blasted away boulders in the diversion channel, Xinhua reported.
The Tangjiashan lake, created when a landslide dammed the Tongkou River, has become a priority for a government working to head off another catastrophe even as it cares for millions left homeless from the May 12 quake that killed nearly 70,000 people. More than 1.3 million people live downriver from Tangjiashan, and 250,000 of them have been evacuated.
News of the draining sent ripples of anticipation through some of the cramped evacuation centers that have sprouted in hilly Sichuan province.
"I wish the water would hurry up so we can go home," said Wang Jing, a 25-year-old nurse, packed with an estimated 9,500 others into the branch campus of the Sichuan Music School in Mianyang city. "My house is fine."
Government experts, quoted by state media, played down the threat of imminent flooding, saying Tangjiashan's landslide-created dam should hold. But state media and officials estimated it would be a week before the evacuees could return home, even if all goes well.
The official death toll crept up Saturday to 69,134 people, with 17,681 still missing.
The Tangjiashan lake is the largest of more than 30 created by last month's quake, and draining it safely will depend on controlling the outflow of water, said David Petley, a professor of geography at Britain's Durham University.
If water flows too slowly from the lake, pressure will continue to build up behind the dam. If the flow is too fast, it could erode the 1,550-foot (472-meter) drainage channel constructed by the government, creating a steeper, narrower course that would pull in water more rapidly, potentially causing the dam to collapse, Petley said.
"The Chinese government have responded to this in an impressive manner," said Petley.
"I don't believe that much more could have been done. Unfortunately, the scale of the problem means that management is very challenging."

Updated : 2020-12-04 21:54 GMT+08:00