China relocates 1.3 million people as fears grow of lake flood
Officials in south-western China's quake-battered Sichuan province on Friday ordered the immediate the evacuation of 1.3 million people in areas under threat of flood from a lake formed by a huge landslide, reported dpa.
Troops had conducted drills with residents of towns and villages near Sichuan's Mianyang city to move to safe areas within four hours, but they had hoped to avoid implementing the emergency plan, which state media earlier said would only be used a worst-case scenario of the entire side of the lake bursting.
Tan Li, the head of Mianyang's branch of China's ruling Communist Party, issued the order for all 1.3 million people to leave the area because of the risk of a major flood from the lake, official Xinhua news agency said.
About 158,000 people were moved out of Mianyang's areas of highest risk on Monday and Tuesday.
The remaining residents were "kept well-informed of the emergency evacuation plans through repeated drills and public announcements," the agency reported earlier.
Thousands of soldiers, armed police and security officers were on standby and planned to go door to door to evacuate people if the lake was about to flood the area, it said.
Helicopters airlifted hundreds of troops and several excavators to the lake at Tangjiashan above Mianyang's Beichuan town, after the only road through the area was blocked by a massive landslide.
The troops tried to dig a sluice to let water out of the lake, which held an estimated 130 million cubic metres of water on Monday.
Earlier reports said the sluice and a water-diversion channel should be finished by June 5, but that troops had prepared several contingency plans in case conditions worsened at the lake.
The formation of the lake and 34 similar ones in Sichuan have brought new fears to millions of survivors of the devastating 8.0- magnitude earthquake.
The confirmed death toll after the quake on May 12 rose to 68,858 by Friday, with 18,618 people still listed as missing and more than 15 million moved out of affected zones.