Dams and Landslides

Landslide hits town near China’s Three Gorges dam

Three Gorges Probe
April 20, 2008

Emergency workers are still trying to rescue almost 200 people from a village that was nearly inundated by a massive landslide near the Three Gorges dam in central China on Saturday, the official Xinhua news agency reports.

Heavy rains triggered the landslide that swept into a schoolyard  and still threatens to inundate 37 homes and a primary school with mud and debris. No casualties were reported since the school was out over the weekend.

Rescuers are still working to get the stranded villagers to safety, according to Xinhua, and expect the landslide could worsen if heavy rains continue.

Xiaohe Village is in Gaoyang Township, one of the last areas to be relocated to make way for the rising Three Gorges reservoir, which is to be raised from its current level of 156 metres to 175 metres by 2009.

A landslide hit the area last year killing 35 people at the entrance to a railway tunnel under construction.

The State Council’s Three Gorges Project Committee said that geological hazards such as landslides and river bank collapses are unavoidable as the reservoir is filled to capacity, Xinhua reports.

Chinese critics of the Three Gorges dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric project, have petitioned the central government to keep the reservoir low in order to reduce the risk of landslides and rapid sedimentation that could quickly render Chongqing city’s harbour impassable.

In related news, Wuhan, a major city and river port downstream from the Three Gorges dam, has just completed the first road tunnel underneath the Yangtze River. The tunnel will be opened to the public later this year and is expected to withstand an earthquake of up to six on the Richter scale, Xinhua reports.
For more coverage of the geological threats made worse by the Three Gorges reservoir, see “Fragile Three Gorges “ by Chang Hongxiao and Ouyang Hongliang, translated by Three Gorges Probe.

Read Three Gorges Probe’s series of oral histories from the Three Gorges area.

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