World News

China to start draining dam that threatens city

BEIJING (Reuters) - Authorities in a remote western part of China hope to start draining as soon as Tuesday an overfilled, leaking reservoir which is threatening to burst and flood a nearby city, state media said on Monday.

The Wenquan reservoir in Qinghai province is holding over 230 million cubic meters of water when it was designed for a maximum of 70 million, the Xinhua news agency said.

If it bursts, the grimy garrison city of Golmud, around 130 km (80 miles) away and home to more than 200,000 people, could be flooded with water up to 4 meters deep in some areas.

More than 9,000 people in immediate danger have already been evacuated.

Xinhua quoted Qinghai deputy governor Deng Bentai as saying authorities hope to start draining the reservoir on Tuesday, assuming they can get enough rocks to build two channels to take the water away.

The reservoir had not been well maintained as it is in an area normally affected by drought rather than heavy rains.

Power and water plants are at risk, and the high-altitude railway to Tibet is some 40 km (25 miles) away so could also be affected, Xinhua said, citing the local government.

In south China, more than 17 million people spread across nine provinces have been affected by downpours over the past few weeks, and around 400 people have been killed.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner