New Delhi, May 27 : Rescuers are preparing to dynamite the barrier of a swelling earthquake-induced lake at risk of bursting and threatening thousands of people downstream in southwest China.
According to Xinhua, the official news agency, experts have proposed a water diversion channel to drain Tangjiashan Lake, formed by landslides that blocked a river known as the Jianhe after the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan Province.
Tangjiashan, one of 35 such lakes, is inaccessible by road and can only be reached by foot or air.
The lake currently holds 130 million cubic meters of water, said Liu Ning, Ministry of Water Resources of China chief engineer, who is in Tangjiashan to oversee the diversion. Its water level was 725.3 meters on Monday, only 26 meters below the lowest part of the barrier, he said.
Li Huzhang, an engineer with the armed police force, said three emergency plans had been made to dig out the sluice. He said at least 50,000 cubic meters of debris blockage would have to be removed. Rescuers, however, were aiming to remove 100,000 cubic meters of debris if the weather allowed to minimize the bursting risk.
The water level in the lake rose by 1.6 meters on Monday, a slowdown in recent days, a hydraulic expert at the local observation site was quoted by the People's Daily Online.
As of 9 p.m. on Monday, around 600 engineers and soldiers had gathered at the blockage of the quake lake and were taking turns to work throughout the night.
Helicopters have airlifted professionals and materials for the operation to the blockage at the barrier lake in Beichuan County, Sichuan.
Experts said more machinery needed to be brought in because of the size of the blockage and the debris was likely to continue to accumulate because of the continuous aftershocks. On Sunday, the area was affected by a strong tremor measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale.
Sunday's adverse conditions hampered the operation, but the weather and visibility were fine on Monday morning, said a spokesman with the Mianyang Airport Headquarters for Quake Relief Flight Operation.
More than 30,000 residents downstream of Tangjiashan Lake have been evacuated to higher ground, according to the Mianyang City government.
Altogether, 35 barrier lakes were formed by landslides after the quake that left 65,080 people dead and 23,150 others missing as of Monday noon, according to the Information Office of the State Council.