Magnitude 5 aftershock rocks China quake lake, triggers landslides; no evacuations ordered

A magnitude 5.0 aftershock shook a brimming lake formed by China's huge earthquake and sent landslides tumbling down surrounding mountains, underscoring the threat of flooding to more than 1 million weary refugees living downstream.
No new evacuations were ordered following the tremor Sunday and the lake's dam of unstable mud and rocks did not collapse, said Hu Peng, a media officer at the disaster relief headquarters of the Tangjiashan "quake lake." He said he had no additional details.
More than 250,000 people downstream have been evacuated in recent weeks, adding to the turmoil created by last month's massive earthquake in China's Sichuan province.
The effect of the 20-second temblor on the lake was not clear and its dam was under surveillance, said the state-run Xinhua News Agency, which had a reporter at the site. A diversion channel draining the lake appeared to be operating smoothly following the aftershock and a rainstorm at about the same time, the agency said.
The temblor was centered about 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) northwest of the lake, according to data reported by the U.S. Geological Survey. It set off landslides on nearby mountains, Xinhua said, without indicating whether the rubble landed in the lake and pushed water levels even higher.
One evacuee in a mountainside tent camp about 25 miles (40 kilometers) downstream said the situation remained stable.
"We felt the aftershock but it wasn't anything bad. We're numb to this by now," said Yu Taichun, a doctor living with about 2,500 others on Taohua Mountain, overlooking the riverside town of Qinglian.
The Tangjiashan lake was formed when rubble from a massive landslide set off by the deadly May 12 earthquake blocked the flow of the Tongkou River. Despite a hastily dug diversion channel that began draining the lake early Saturday, water levels have continued to rise dangerously.
Soldiers blew up wooden houses, boulders and other debris Sunday to speed the flow of water into the spillway. Other troops were deepening the channel and digging on a second spillway.
Managing the Tangjiashan lake has become a priority for a government working to head off another catastrophe even as it cares for millions left homeless from the quake centered in Sichuan province. More than 1.3 million people live downriver from Tangjiashan.
The death toll from the quake climbed Sunday to 69,136, with 17,686 people still missing.
The Tangjiashan lake is the largest of more than 30 created by last month's quake. Government experts quoted by state media have played down the threat of imminent flooding, though a variety of factors could set off a dam collapse: rain, aftershocks, landslides, increased leakage from the barrier.

Updated : 2021-04-15 15:36 GMT+08:00