Of the 34 "quake lakes" found in Sichuan Province, formed by landslides that blocked rivers, eight hold more than 3 million cubic meters of water, adding potential danger for the people who have already lost much to the earthquake.
According to remote sensing information from the air and space, as well as field observations from experts, a quake lake only 2.6 km from Beichuan County, which was devastated by the 8.0 magnitude earthquake on May 12, had doubled between May 14 and May 18 to 150,000 square meters in surface area. Xuanping and Zhangjiaba villages, which were near the lake, are flooded.
To make matters worse, the Chinese National Meteorological Center (NMC) predicted that rains might sweep the quake-hit regions of the southwest next week and raise the water level of quake lakes.
A quake lake once burst and caused a major disaster after an earthquake that hit Maoxian County in 1933, said Yin Yueping, deputy chief engineer with China Geological Survey (CGS), adding that they had been monitoring these newest lakes since the quake.
Information on all 34 quake lakes has been sent to quake control and relief headquarters, the Ministry of Water Resources and the government of Sichuan Province for reference.
According to Yin, efforts are being made to evacuate people living downstream of the lakes. But he did not reveal the exact population to be evacuated.
Zhu Bing, deputy head of the water resources authority in Sichuan Province, said the province has formulated emergency response plans, including evacuating people to safer places when necessary and blasting or digging of sluices to discharge water.
The Ministry of Land and Resources and the Ministry of Water Resources jointly sent experts to check and assess the condition of the lakes. The experts departed from Beijing for the sites on Thursday.
(Xinhua News Agency May 23, 2008)