Rescuers start blowing barrier dam at Zhouqu

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Rescuers began to blast debris damming a west China river Monday in order to safely release potential flood waters in Zhouqu County, where at least 127 people died in a massive mudslide early Sunday.

Personnel from the Lanzhou Military Area Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) used explosives to blast the blockage in the Bailong River, in Gansu Province, at 8:18 a.m., a spokesman with the emergency rescue headquarters said.

He said the first operation was successful, adding that armed police officers and PLA soldiers also used excavators to demolish the blockage.

At 9:34 a.m., the PLA soldiers conducted a second controlled explosion using more explosives than originally planned to accelerate the drainage of the lake, He Qingcheng, an army commander of the PLA Lanzhou Military Area Command told Xinhua.

The second blast created a channel 5 meters long and 2 meters wide in the blockage.

The level of the barrier lake had decreased by a meter after the second blast, He said.

A third blast was carried out at 10:20 a.m. Monday.

A massive mudslide battered Zhouqu County, in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, early Sunday. At least 127 people are reported dead and 88 are injured. An estimated 1,294 people are missing.

The county is located in the Bailong River valley, flanked by mountains on both sides.

The blockage of the river created a barrier lake that overfilled and sent massive waves crashing down on the county, ripping houses from their foundations and tearing six-story apartment buildings in half.

According to local meteorological authorities, Zhouqu is expected to see drizzle or moderate rain on Monday and Tuesday.

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