China evacuates 190,000 from quake area

Other News Materials 31 May 2008 09:58 (UTC +04:00)

China has evacuated over 190,000 people from an area threatened by landslide-blocked rivers near the epicentre of this month's deadly earthquake in Sichuan province, the official Xinhua news agency said on Saturday.

Police shouting "evacuate! evacuate!" through loudspeakers fanned out through the town of Youxian on the outskirts of Mianyang city, which was devastated by the May 12 quake.

The entire town appeared empty, with shops shuttered and apartment buildings silent, as officials searched for stragglers in makeshift tarpaulin shelters erected by refugees on the banks of the Fu River.

Residents of Youxian were ordered to move to higher ground in the hills around the town as hundreds of soldiers dug dams and channels in an effort to reduce pressure on the river and prevent it from overflowing, which could inundate the surrounding area.

"We don't know how long they'll have to stay up there. It depends on the situation with the dam," a local police official, who declined to be named, told Reuters.

The official death toll from the quake is 68,858 and is expected to rise, with 18,618 people still missing. Officials have said more than 30 landslide-blocked rivers could burst, flooding downstream towns and tent camps, AP reported.