Rains Add to Flood Threat in Quake Area

More news from the “quake lakes” formed by the Sichuan tremblor. This time the threat is coming from above in the form of rain, from The New York Times:

As heavy rains descended on northern Sichuan Province for the first time in a week, the government evacuated thousands of people on Friday from towns heavily damaged by the earthquake and now threatened by flooding from so-called quake lakes.

Some 30 were formed as landslides blocked rivers; if these natural dams gave way, cascades of water would engulf downstream areas.

So on Friday, people were fleeing to the mountains by foot, on motorcycles and in cars. Men holdings pigs in the back of a truck drove from the town of Sanzao. A woman hopped on the back of a motorbike with a plastic bag full of fruit and bottled water.

But along the crowded road running past the swollen Anchang River, hundreds paused in midflight to take photos, chat with neighbors or just stare at the roiling rapids.

“When it rains, it usually flows slowly, but here it’s going so fast,” said Du Yongan, a construction worker sitting on a bike and wearing a red plastic helmet. “This happened so suddenly.”

AFP has the latest on the largest of the so-called quake lakes, which is threatening to inundate millions living downstream:

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who arrived at the landslide-created Tangjiashan lake late on Thursday, ordered the evacuation of everyone in harm’s way.

Up to 1.3 million people could face floods if the rock and debris that has blocked the Jianjiang river bursts open, officials warned.

More than 250,000 people have already been evacuated but many others will have to be moved if the quake lake empties downstream rapidly.

Also, Bloomberg reports on potential damage to an oil pipeline if the lake bursts its banks:

The Lanzhou-Chengdu-Chongqing pipeline is 60 kilometers (37 miles) downstream from Tangjiashan lake, formed after the May 12 temblor that struck China’s southwestern province of Sichuan, China National Petroleum Corp. said in a statement on its Web site today. PetroChina’s Chairman Jiang Jiemin is at the site.

The 1,252-kilometer pipeline carries 70 percent of Sichuan’s oil-product supplies, linking the provincial capital of Chengdu and Chongqing city to PetroChina’s Lanzhou refinery in Gansu province. Premier Wen Jiabao said work on the lake is at a “critical point” as officials warned it may overflow and inundate townships downstream, Xinhua News Agency said today.

This video on efforts to drain the lake is from AP:

quakelake.jpg

June 6, 2008 11:06 AM
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Categories: Sci-Tech, Society