Dams and Landslides

Landslides cause havoc in Three Gorges area as heavy rain forecast

Three Gorges Probe
June 16, 2004

Dozens of landslides in the Three Gorges reservoir area have claimed the life of a train driver, destroyed hundreds of houses and forced more than 40,000 people to flee their homes, the Chongqing Evening News reports.

Dozens of landslides in the Three Gorges reservoir area have claimed the life of a train driver, destroyed hundreds of houses and forced more than 40,000 people to flee their homes, the Chongqing Evening News (Chongqing wanbao) reports.

The geologically fragile mountainous region where the Three Gorges dam has been built is prone to landslides and riverbank collapses, and the summer flood season is an especially dangerous time. Heavy rain is forecast to begin this Friday (June 18) throughout the Yangtze River valley.

The recent landslides have hit the Wanzhou area (about 280 kilometres upstream of the dam) particularly hard, and caused numerous transportation woes, the newspaper said in its June 14 report.

In one incident, earth and rock fell onto the runway at Wuqiao airport, forcing the cancellation of flights.

A landslide at Dazhong village in Wanzhou engulfed a repair train, blocking the Dazhou-Wanzhou line. Two drivers were pulled from the debris after a six-hour rescue operation. One man died, and the other has been hospitalized.

Another landslide interrupted traffic on the highway connecting the major cities of Shanghai and Chengdu.

Xinhua reports that 50-70 mm of rain fell in the Chongqing area from June 10-15, causing the water level in the Three Gorges reservoir to rise. Experts are urging that the reservoir level now be lowered as the flood season gets under way, the news agency said in its June 16 report.

“Departments in charge of the Three Gorges project should properly drop electricity generation and let more water down to the lower reaches in an attempt to ensure the safety of the gigantic dam,” Xinhua warned.

Meanwhile, Chongqing officials are scrambling to move more than 18,000 Three Gorges migrants ahead of schedule because of the risk of geological disasters, Interfax reports.

With heavy rain set to lash the area and trigger further landslides and riverbank collapses, experts told the news agency that “the major problem affecting the region has essentially been financial, and that all the resources available have been pumped into the [Three Gorges] hydropower facility. In many cases, local villagers are forced to resort to primitive, labour-intensive methods to shore up the banks of the Yangtze as the water levels rise.”

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