From: Reuters
Published May 27, 2008 07:24 AM

China works around the clock to drain quake lake

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese soldiers were working round the clock on Tuesday to dig a giant sluice to ease pressure on a swelling "quake lake," with plans to evacuate 100,000 people to avert a new disaster, state media said.

China has put the death toll from the earthquake that struck Sichuan province on May 12 at 65,080, with the figure certain to rise as searchers account for 23,150 missing. A total of 360,058 people were injured.

Soldiers and police had trekked to the Tangjiashan lake carrying dynamite ready to blast the mud and rubble blocking the flow of water from a river and creating one of 35 quake lakes formed after landslides triggered by the massive tremor.

Some 30,000 people living below the lake in the mountainous southwestern province have been evacuated as a precaution, but Xinhua news agency said 100,000 more would be moved.

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"It's better for them to complain about the trouble that the evacuation would bring than to shed tears after the possible danger," Liu Ning, an official with the Ministry of Water Resources, was quoted as saying.

The lake had risen to 725.3 meters on Monday, only 26 meters below the lowest part of the barrier, he said.

By Monday night, around 600 engineers and soldiers had gathered at the landslip and were taking turns to work through the night.

"Because of the lack of tents, some soldiers had to sleep outdoors on the blockage at night," Xinhua said.

The Communist Party's decision-making Politburo warned on Monday that the situation remained "grim" and relief work arduous for the "most destructive" tremor recorded since before the birth of modern China in 1949.

The massive relief effort, which involves food, tents and clothing for millions, as well as reconstructing housing and getting help to isolate villages, is expected to take up to three years.

The biggest appeal is for tents for 5 million homeless people as the weather turns warmer and wetter, risking the spread of disease.

(Reporting by Nick Macfie; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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