Wednesday, May 28, 2008

China - Flood risks force mass evacuations

Earthmovers attempt to clear tonnes of rubble blocking rivers

Hundreds of thousands of people are being evacuated from low lying areas in the earthquake zone of Sichuan province as the threat of major flooding looms. What were once rivers have become lakes after landslides formed dams. Heavy rain has increased the level of these lakes which threaten to burst and cause torrential flooding. Thousands of troops from China’s Peoples’ Liberation Army have worked tirelessly to siphon off. So far 160,000 have been evacuated but authorities say that up to a million people may be relocated. China Daily reported that more than 100,000 soldiers were operating in the area of Tangjiashan lake. Heavy equipment has been carried in by a Mig-26 helicopter and earthmovers have attempted to make a diversion channel. But according to CCTV it will not be completed until 5th of June.

There have been several major aftershocks in the past few days resulting in several fatalities. Yesterday a 6.0 magnitude earthquake occurred near to the Guangyuan plutonium production reactor. It is one of several major aftershocks occurring near to the plant, but there has been no clear information as to how badly the installation was damaged. There is still no further update from authorities over the state of this and two other nuclear sites first brought to public attention by the French nuclear authorities. Last week, Chinese authorities said they had retrieved several sources of radioactivity but that 15 other identified areas remained out of reach.
Coverage from the earthquake hit region ahs all but dried up. CNN continues to give daily reports with three reporters still operating in the area. But both Sky News and the BBC have withdrawn to their Beijing offices and have only returned to the story as lakes threaten to destroy many more areas of the devastated region. CCTV has also reduced its coverage of the earthquake disaster which has now killed 68,109 with a further 19,851 still missing. Aid continues to poor into the country adding to 34.79 billion Yuan [[$1.3 bn] already donated. Even amongst the Chinese leadership the attention is beginning to focus elsewhere. In the first week of the earthquake Premier Wen Jiabao tirelessly made his way around the devastated region. By the end of the week President Hu Jintao had arrived. As two weeks have passed since the earthquake less well known legislators are making their way around the region overseeing relief and reconstruction efforts. Wu Bangguo arrived in the region this week visiting the Zipingpu dam, hospitals and a steam turbine factory [Xinhua].

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