New danger: China's rivers blocked by quake

Published on Reuters, Chicago Sun-Times

Chinese authorities are rushing to dynamite dams of over 30 lakes caused by mudslides that have blocked rivers in the central China province of Sichuan. This is the latest in a series of threats from the May 12th 7.9 earthquake that has cost over 65,000 lives (that count is expected to rise), injured over 300,000 with over 20,000 still missing, and has left millions homeless:
Authorities are concerned the swelling lake will burst as water from the Jianhe river in Beichuan county in China's southwestern Sichuan province rises behind the earthquake-created dam, the Xinhua news agency reported.

"The lake ... may cause a devastating flooding if the barrier bursts," Xinhua said. Authorities want to control the flow of water -- rather than have the dam give way all at once -- by creating a spillway.
The Chinese government has been struggling to manage 69 dams that are threatening to break in the area and to provide shelter for the millions of homeless families. They have put out a request for donations of 3 million tents to the international community and have been sending large numbers of troops to repair the failing dams and blocked rivers.

Chinese environmental teams have also been sent to contain 50 sources of
radiation from destroyed facilities in the region. International teams are preparing to review the impact to projects under construction for the purpose of providing carbon offsets as a way to lower China's impact on climate change.

The concern about the quake-formed lakes was exacerbated by a 6.0 aftershock -- one of over 94 recorded strong aftershocks -- on Sunday that was reported to have killed four more, injured 1,000,
to have damaged another 400,000 structures and to have threatened another dam. The loss of life has been even worse for families under China's one-child policy.

Much of the structural damage in the initial quake was to poorly built schools that collapsed while they were in session. Many parents lost their their only children in the aftermath, leading to calls for investigation into the possibly corrupt construction practices and for a lifting of the one-child policy. Officials in the province responded by relaxing the rules in specific cases:
The Chengdu Population and Family Planning Committee in the capital of hard-hit Sichuan province announced that families whose child was killed, severely injured or disabled in the quake could get permission to have another baby.
Endangered pandas have been moved from the region's panda preserve following the quake. Concern for lack of available bamboo (panda's food) and the search for two missing pandas led to the decision to evacuate them to a safer region.

The Chinese government has announced they will rebuild the region once the situation stabilizes. Until then, government troops, officials and aid workers will struggle to manage the vast numbers of homeless, injured, as well as the threats from failing infrastructure in a province that continues to shake two weeks after the 7.9 quake.