- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2008

CHENGDU, China | China declared an end Tuesday to the crisis over a brimming lake formed by landslides from a massive earthquake that had threatened flood downstream communities.

Sichuan province’s top official, Liu Qibao, claimed a “decisive victory” with water pouring into a manmade spillway from the Tangjiashan lake and its level dropped rapidly, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Mr. Liu is Communist Party chief of the southwestern province that was hardest-hit by the May 12 quake that has killed almost 70,000 people.

Towns downstream had been placed on alert for possible flooding in case of an uncontrolled breaching of the lake’s unstable banks. But Xinhua said more than half of the 8,800 million cubic feet of water in the lake had been drained off by Tuesday evening, easing pressure on the dam.

Earlier Tuesday, state broadcaster CCTV showed water flowing rapidly out of the lake and flooding low-lying areas of the devastated town of Beichuan just downstream. Residents in the area have long been evacuated and others along the river were preparing to leave if the water rose too high, the station reported.

In the city of Miangyang, where residents had been practicing evacuation drills, the Fujiang River flowed high and swiftly under a key railway bridge, but stayed within its banks.

For days, troops had been using dynamite and anti-tank weapons to blast boulders and other obstacles in a diversion canal, trying to speed the flow of water and relieve pressure on the lake’s unstable mud and rock dam.

More than 250,000 people downstream had moved to high ground because of concerns the barrier holding back the lake could breach entirely. About 1.3 million people live downstream.

Also Tuesday, state media said searchers had discovered the wreckage of a helicopter that crashed in deep mountains in southwestern China while ferrying people injured in last month’s quake.

The remains of the air force helicopter’s five-person crew and 14 quake victims were found at the crash site near the town of Yingxiu, Xinhua reported.

The Russian-designed Mi-171 crashed May 31 near the epicenter of the quake in the Sichuan province town of Wenchuan after flying into fog and turbulence.

Meanwhile, staff at the world’s most famous panda reserve on Tuesday buried one of the animals that was killed in a landslide triggered by the quake.

Nine-year-old female Mao Mao was the only panda at the Wolong Giant Panda Reserve confirmed to have died in the quake, said Zhang Hemin, who heads the reserve. The panda’s body was found Monday.

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