Powerful aftershock hits China

 

A powerful aftershock destroyed tens of thousands of homes in central China today, killing one person and causing hundreds of new casualties.

The new tremor strained recovery efforts from the country’s worst earthquake in three decades.

The fresh devastation came after a 5.8 magnitude aftershock that struck today - among the most powerful recorded since the initial May 12th quake, according to the US Geological Survey. The China National Seismic Network said the aftershock was the strongest of dozens in the nearly two weeks after the disaster.

The tremor injured more than 400, 28 seriously, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Some 71,000 homes that had survived the original quake were levelled, and another 200,000 were in danger of collapse from the aftershock that caused office towers to sway in Beijing, 800 miles away.

Before the aftershock, the Cabinet said the confirmed death toll from the disaster had risen to 62,664, with another 23,775 people missing. Premier Wen Jiabao has warned the number of dead could surpass 80,000.

A mudslide caused by the aftershock blocked a road, but Xinhua said no serious landslides were reported.

Previous landslides loosened by the quake jammed rivers across the disaster area, creating 35 new lakes that placed 700,000 survivors in jeopardy of floods, Vice Minister of Water Resources E Jingping told reporters in Beijing.

The biggest concern was the new Tangjiashan lake in Beichuan county, where some 1,600 police and soldiers were hiking with 22 pounds of explosives each to blast through debris, according to Xinhua.

Rain will “not only cause the amount of water going into the lakes to increase, but also influence their normal structure, so the situation is quite serious”, said Vice Minister E. “It is a daunting task because of the unpredictability of when the barrier lakes will burst.”

About 20,000 people have been evacuated from the disaster area due to the flood risk, and the total relocated could rise to 100,000, said Liu Ning, chief engineer at the Ministry of Water Resources.

The ministry also said 69 dams in Sichuan were in danger of collapse from quake damage, but reservoirs have been drained to lessen the risk. Authorities have said the world’s largest water project — the Three Gorges dam, located about 350 miles east of the epicentre — was not damaged.

Earlier today, it was revealed that a survivor was pulled alive from the rubble of China's earthquake 266 hours after the big tremor hit.

Xiao Zhihu, an 80-year-old partially paralyzed man, was rescued in Mianzhu city on Friday. He had been trapped under a collapsed pillar of his house, and survived after being fed by his wife, the television report said.