Dams and Landslides

Massive landslide near dam forces emergency evacuation

Kelly Haggart

June 5, 2002

A huge landslide, reactivated by the heavy rain of recent weeks in the Three Gorges dam area, is still sliding down the mountain, China Central Television (Zhongyang dianshi tai) reported last week. Residents of the danger zone are being moved to safety and no deaths or injuries have been reported, CCTV said.

The landslide near Shuitianba village in Zigui county, about 50 kilometres upstream of the dam, began its sudden, dramatic descent on May 21, and was still moving when CCTV reported the news on May 27. The report did not say when the reactivated landslide had originally occurred.

The landslide, containing an estimated 5.8 million cubic metres of rock and mud, covers an area 1,500 metres long and 250 metres wide, the report said. The ground has subsided an average of 4.5 metres in the affected area, caving in to a depth of 6.4 metres in one place. In addition, up to 100 cracks have opened, with one of the largest measuring 2.5 metres across and two metres deep, CCTV said.

A local monitoring station has observed that the flowing mass began to slow after some let-up in the rain, but residents were still being moved from the area as a precaution, the report said.

Hubei Daily (Hubei Ribao) reported last month that heavy rainfall in the area had triggered half a dozen landslides that put hundreds of lives at risk, heightening concerns about the geological instability of the region in which the world’s biggest dam is being built.

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