A lake created by the Sichuan earthquake is posing an imminent threat to millions of people living downstream. But, according to Reuters, there is some confusion over how many people would be affected if the banks burst. CNN reports:
Now crews are working 24 hours a day to clear debris and dig a channel so water from the lake can flow in a controlled way to the lower reaches of the river.
Workers hope the spillway will allow the water to bypass Beichuan town. Farther downriver, in the town of Mianyang, the government was preparing to evacuate the population of 1.3 million people if the lake bursts its banks.
Some 200,000 people have already been ordered to leave at-risk areas downstream.
China’s state news agency said today 1.3 million people had been ordered to move to higher ground for fear a “quake lake” caused by this month’s devastating earthquake could burst its mud and rock dam, but the announcment was immediately denied by an official spokesman.
Tan Li, Communist Party Secretary of Mianyang city, “issued an order that 1.3 million people living downstream from Tangjiashan, a swelling quake-induced lake, must evacuate to higher ground marked by government bodies”, Xinhua news agency said, specifying the threat of flooding and strong aftershocks.
But Zhou Hua, a Mianyang city official who is spokesman for the lake relief effort, told Reuters the Xinhua report was inaccurate.
Nevertheless, conditions are making the rescue operation exceedingly difficult From CNN:
Because the region is so remote — most of the roads were cut off by landslides — the government has brought the equipment and personnel in with Russian military helicopters.
Another challenge is the weather. The commander said some members of the Chinese army have resorted to walking to the site, carrying fuel on their backs, because the helicopters were unable to fly in the fog and rain.
Many of those who have already left have been living in tents after losing their homes in the earthquake, forcing them to pick up and move again — some for the third time.