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China Draining 'Quake Lake' to Ease Threat of Flooding


Chinese workers have started draining a massive, unstable lake formed by the Sichuan earthquake. Chinese officials say the water level is still rising but the threat of the lake bursting has been eased. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

Chinese workers on Saturday began releasing water out of Sichuan province's Tangjiashan barrier lake.

Chinese media say hundreds of soldiers and police worked for six days to dig a 475-meter channel to safely drain the rising water.

Sichuan's deadly May 12 earthquake triggered landslides that cut off rivers and streams, forming more than 30 "quake lakes." The Tangjiashan lake is considered the most dangerous.

Continuing landslides and heavy rains have quickly increased the lake's water level. Chinese authorities have warned the banks could burst and flood nearby towns already devastated from the earthquake.

Zhang Ting is a director of Sichuan's hydrological bureau.

He says because the amount of water going into the lake is greater than the amount of water coming out, the barrier lake's water level is still slowly increasing. But, he says the amount of water being discharged will also gradually increase.

More than 250,000 people have been evacuated from the area threatened by the lake. Chinese officials say they have prepared to evacuate over one million more if the lake bursts.

The lake is also a threat to downstream bridges and China's longest oil pipeline.

China's official Xinhua news agency says engineers have been sent to monitor structures that may be affected by the draining waters.

The Sichuan earthquake killed over 69,000 people and left millions homeless.

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