Fears of lake flooding eases in China


Fears of a devastating flood from a lake formed by last month's Sichuan earthquake eased today after hundreds of soldiers and engineers successfully completed a channel to drain away rising water.

Authorities had evacuated 197,000 people and drawn up plans to move as many as another 1.3 million because of the risks posed by a collapse of the Tangjiashan lake, one of 30 created by landslides touched off by the quake.

Engineers were due to start draining the lake today, according to the official Xinhua news agency, which said the army had been able to abandon back-up plans to use dynamite to blast away debris and relieve pressure on the river feeding into the lake.

The official death toll from the May 12th quake rose slightly to 69,016, with 18,830 still missing in remote parts of the mountainous southwestern province.

More than 15 million have been evacuated from the areas hit by the 7.9-magnitude quake, China's worst natural disaster in more than 30 years, the government added.

Ten quake survivors were on board a military helicopter that crashed in foggy conditions on Saturday near Yingxiu, close to the epicentre of the quake.

A search-and-rescue mission was under way for the helicopter, which had a crew of four, Xinhua said.