Flood fears stalk earthquake-hit

Beichuan, May 17:

Thousands of Chinese earthquake victims fled areas near the epicentre today, fearful of floods from a river blocked by landslides.

Soldiers carried older people out of Beichuan town — one of the areas hit hardest by this past week’s magnitude 7.9 quake, whose confirmed death toll jumped to nearly 29,000 — while survivors cradled babies on a road jammed with vehicles and people.

A policeman told The Associated Press that rescue officials were worried water from the choked river would inundate the town.

“The river was jammed up by a landslide; now that may burst.

That is what we are worried about,” the policeman said as he hurried by, not giving his name. “I’m very scared. I heard that the water will be crashing down here,” said Liang Xiao, one of the people fleeing.

“If that happens, there will be over 10 meters of water over our heads.” The official Xinhua News Agency said earlier that a lake in Beichuan county “may burst its bank at any time,” without saying why the water was rising. Residents left for higher ground, but 46 seriously injured were still at risk, the agency said.

In what apparently was a similar landslide-blocked river, Xinhua said more than 2,000 people were being evacuated further north near Qingchuan town, where blocked portions of the Qingzhu river formed a large stretch of water.

Survivors were still being found under destroyed buildings five days after the quake, as the rescue operation grew to 148,000 soldiers and police.

Rescue teams from South Korea, Singapore and Russia began work today, joining Japanese specialists. A US Air Force cargo plane loaded with tents, lanterns and 15,000 meals left Hawaii today, the first aid flight from the US to help in Sichuan province. Another Air Force delivery was to fly in from Alaska.

The United Nations announced a grant of up to $7 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund, to be used by UN agencies and programs.

Caring for the untold tens of thousands or more survivors across the earthquake zone

was stretching government resources.

Five rescued after five days:

Deyang: Five people were pulled on Saturday from the wreckage of China’s earthquake after being buried for up to 124 hours, state media said, offering hope that more miracle survival stories could yet emerge.

Rescuers searching the rubble in separate places saved four men — aged up to 69 — along with a 31-year-old woman, state media said.The woman, Bian Gangfen, in the city

of Deyang, and two of the men were rescued after 124 hours in the rubble, the longest that people are known to have survived in the debris since the 7.9-magnitude quake.

Yesterday, rescuers pulled dozens of people alive from the rubble, among them at least one child in a collapsed school, according to state media. Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday vowed to “spare no efforts” to save people as long as there remained some hope. — HNS