5:46 am - Wednesday November 4, 2015

Lakes formed by quake in China threaten flooding

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Rescuers raced on Tuesday to evacuate villages near rising lakes formed by landslides, complicating relief efforts following a strong earthquake in southern China that killed at least 398 people and has left thousands homeless.

Rescue teams have freed dozens of trapped survivors as they dig through the thousands of homes that collapsed when the tremor struck Ludian county in Yunnan province on Sunday.

Landslides have created barrier lakes where water levels were rising on Tuesday to pose a new threat to about 800 residents and seven power stations downstream, where sudden flooding could prompt widespread power outages, Xinhua reported.

A main road into the worst-hit areas of Ludian was clogged on Tuesday with bulldozers, backhoes and civilian and military vehicles carrying supplies, including water and instant noodles.

Medics were reporting severe shortages of medicine and an inability to perform operations on the severely injured, while rescuers said their work had been hampered by continuous downpours and quake-triggered landslides, Xinhua said.

The quake struck on Sunday about 370 kilometres northeast of the Yunnan provincial capital of Kunming. Overhead footage of the quake zone shot by state broadcaster CCTV showed older houses flattened but newer multi-storey buildings still standing.

In 1970, a magnitude-7.7 earthquake in Yunnan killed at least 15,000 people, and a magnitude-7.1 quake killed more than 1,400 in 1974. In September 2012, 81 people died and 821 were injured in a series of quakes in the region.

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