Dams and Earthquakes

China fights quake lakes

May 29, 2008

About 160,000 people are being relocated and the government may have to evacuate as many as 1.3 million after landslides caused by the May 12 quake blocked rivers, creating 35 lakes, reported Bloomberg. Some of them are threatening to burst their banks.

Alexander Densmore, a seismologist at Durham University in Britain, said any break in a quake lake would likely be sudden, reports Reuters. “These landslide dams pose a really significant risk in these mountain regions, and in these narrow valleys it doesn’t take much material to create a complete blockage,” he said, adding a breach occurred, could send a sudden rush of water downstream.

“Once that process starts, it’s virtually impossible to do anything to decrease the water… When they fail, they tend to fail catastrophically.”

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