Landslides create a barrier lake, posing new threat to quake rescue. Photo: Chinanews.com
An earthquake in Ludian, Yunnan province triggered landslides which have blocked rivers and created rapidly growing bodies of water that could unleash more destruction on survivors of the disaster that killed at least 589 people and injured over 2,400, Xinhua reported.
A group of 25 soldiers were trapped on Tuesday after they placed a ton of explosives near the barrier lake in a bid to defuse the threat. They have returned to safety after staying overnight on the mountain and will continue to lay explosives to the lake.
As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, accumulated water volume of the barrier lake had reached 49.6 million cubic meters, and the water level is increasing at a speed of 16 cm per hour, said Sun Huaikun, a technical specialist in charge of the barrier lake response.
Sun told a press conference late Tuesday that 4,200 residents living on the lower reaches of the Niulan River had been evacuated.
A reservoir, located on the upper reaches, is required to intercept river water and reduce pressure on the barrier lake.
Barrier lakes, formed by landslides blocking rivers, are a recurrent threat to the lives of victims and rescuers alike. A 24-year-old border policeman is missing after he was hit by a falling rock as he attempted to swim a barrier lake in search of survivors.
Meanwhile rescuers are risking their lives as they work to open roads, blocked by landslides, leading to Longtoushan Township in Ludian County, epicenter of Sunday's tremor.
A road leading to a large barrier lake on Niulan River was made passable after 38 hours of repairs by an armed police squad.
Repair work is underway on three other roads in the quake zone.
The quake also damaged reservoirs and water pipes, cutting off supplies for over 300,000 people. Currently, local bottled water plants are providing 50 tonnes of drinking water every day.
"As traffic has improved, we delivered 20 tonnes of bottled water and we are repairing water pipes as quickly as we can," said Zhou Minghui, head of Ludian water bureau.
Medicine badly needed
Rescuers are still racing against time to save lives as the death toll rises. More fatalities may still be reported as the rescue work spreads to remote locations.
In a "miracle" rescue, an 88-year-old woman was pulled from a pile of rubble in the Babao Village late Tuesday after being buried for more than 50 hours.
She is unhurt and her health is fine, rescuers and doctors said.
At midday Tuesday, rescuers dug the body of a ten-year-old girl out of a collapsed house in Longtoushan.
"We have detected 12 people buried beneath the rubble, but unfortunately there are no signs of life," said Zhang Wukuan with a special rescue team. "Four bodies have been recovered."
In Tangjiawan, Longtoushan, villagers carried the bodies of six dead residents 10 km out of the mountains on makeshift stretchers.
"Our medicine is running out and more injured people are still being sent to us," said Chen Wangchang, head of Ludian Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital.
Relief goods such as food and tents were airlifted to several villages in Longtoushan Tuesday. Traffic controls are in place of the main road between Ludian's county seat and Longtoushan, prioritizing ambulances and vehicles carrying relief goods.