China's Dams

9,000 people evacuated from northwest China city near risky reservoir

(July 11, 2010) More than 9,000 people have been evacuated Sunday from Golmud City in northwest China’s Qinghai Province as water level continued to rise in a nearby risky reservoir, the municipal authorities said.

The municipal government has set up 900 tents, four toilets and tap water supply for the evacuated people from 2,000 families near the Wenquan Reservoir, said Zhu Jianping, Golmud mayor.

The government also approved 53 businesses to sell food and other daily supplies in the evacuation sites on condition that the goods are sold at fair prices.

Several leaks have been reported in the embankment of the Wenquan Reservoir, 127 km from urban Golmud.

If it collapses, the city with a population of 205,700 could be flooded by waters up to 4 meters deep. The city’s power and water plants are also at risk, the municipal government said in a previous statement.

The Qinghai-Tibet railway, the world’s highest railway, could also be hit by flood waters as it is only 40 km away from the reservoir.

Wenquan Reservoir has not been well maintained as it lies in a usually drought-prone area. It now holds more than 230 million cubic meters of water but it was designed only to safely hold 70 million cubic meters, experts with the provincial drought relief and flood control headquarters said.

The reservoir’s water level is still rising as rains are pounding the area and the snow on nearby mountains continues to melt with climbing temperatures. Heavy rains are forecast Sunday night and Monday.

A 1.3-magnitude earthquake hit Golmud City at 1:35 a.m. Saturday. The epicenter was 60 km from the reservoir, according to a statement from the provincial seismological bureau.

“The bureau is paying close attention to the seismological activities near the reservoir and has found no evidence of strong quake so far,” it said.

English.news.cn, July 11, 2010

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