By English Edition Staff
Published: 2008-05-25

As of late Sunday evening, at least one had died and 359 injured after a 6.4-magnitude aftershock hit Sichuan's Qingchuan county that afternoon, according to Chinese state media.

The casualty was due to collapsed building in Guangyuan city. Many of the injured, of whom 24 were seriously hurt, were workers clearing blocked roads in high mountains and who were hit by fallen rocks, CCTV news channel quoted Guangyuan city's Earthquake Relief Headquarters official.

The aftershock was the strongest to hit the province in southwest China since an 8-magnitude earthquake on May 12 that claimed 62,664 as of Sunday.

Based on data released by the Sichuan Earthquake Administration, the 6.4-magnitude aftershock occurred at 16:21 in Qingchuan on Sunday, May 25. Tremors were reportedly felt in nearby provinces like Shaanxi and as far off as Beijing.

About an hour later, a 4.7-magnitude aftershock hit adjacent province, Gansu's Wenxian (county), at 17:34. The public there had been warned of the possibility of a strong quake measuring 6 or 6.5 since last week, but the prediction released by the provincial earthquake administration estimated the quake would hit between May 20 and 22.

Gansu's local media reported that 19 people from Longnan city were injured, of whom four were seriously hurt. The aftershock also triggered landslides and cut off the national route 212 linking Wenxian and Longnan's Wudu again.   

Meanwhile, emergency response teams were racing against time to prevent a potential second disaster caused by landslide-dammed lakes, which formed following the main quake and over 8,000 aftershocks of various degrees thereafter.

In a press conference held by the Sichuan local government at 17:00 on Sunday, local officials disclosed that there were 34 landslide-dammed lakes, of which, 31 were under close monitoring and 26 had 24-hour patrols.

The press conference stated that the most dangerous lake was in Beichuan's Tangjiashan, while those in Nanba and Pingwu were also considered high risk. An official said risk mitigation plans had been drawn up, including evacuations based on possible flood paths.

Asked if the 6.4-magnitude aftershock on Sunday would heighten the risk of dammed lakes bursting, an official said further data from the ground was needed to provide an accurate assessment.

The Sichuan Water Resources Administration website disclosed that the risk mitigation measures at Tangjiashan landslide-dammed lake include digging more channels to divert and release the rising water. The diversion channels would be laced with special surfaces to slow the currents.

The website said that such water diversion projects were scheduled to take 10 days.

Meanwhile, state media agency Xinhua reported that 1,800 paramilitary personnel and soldiers were on their way to Tangjiashan's landslide-dammed lake on foot. They were bringing explosives and hand tools needed to divert the water flow.

Thick fog and heavy rains had prevented the air dropping of personnel into Tangjiashan, and heavy machinery could not be air lifted into the areas due to mountainous terrain and bad weather.

Instead, the troops would be trekking overnight into Tangjiashan, now classified by officials as the number one most dangerous lanslide-dammed lake.