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'Quake lake' to become a scenic spot
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The Tangjiashan "quake lake" [File photo]

China plans to turn the Tangjiashan "quake lake" into a scenic spot amid efforts to rebuild a county downstream, a local official said on Monday.

Experts were now studying how to develop the lake, which was formed by the May 12 earthquake, in a "comprehensive" and "scientific" way, said Chen Xingchun, secretary general of the Communist Party Committee of Mianyang City in the southwestern Sichuan Province.

"It will be an important part of rebuilding Beichuan county," he told a press conference in the provincial capital.

The quake triggered massive landslides in Sichuan, blocking the flow of rivers and creating more than 30 unstable quake lakes that threatened millions downstream.

Tangjiashan, the largest of the lakes, had put 1.3 million at risk alone with its 250 million cubic meters of water before the drainage efforts succeeded earlier this month. This operation had forced the evacuation of more than 250,000 residents in Mianyang.

The Sichuan Provincial Department of Water Resources declared last week that 27 of the 34 quake lakes were no longer dangerous.

Three years to rebuild beichuan

The quake left 15,645 people dead, 4,311 missing and 142,000 homeless in mountainous Beichuan, the area where the Qiang ethnic group are populated. About 80 percent of the buildings collapsed in the county, about 100 km east of the epicenter.

"The county was destroyed. We cannot rebuild it at the original site. We have to choose another location," said Chen, also in charge of the rebuilding.

Prevention of geological disasters, the inheriting of the Qiang culture, supplies of water resources and other factors would be taken into consideration while selecting another county seat, he said.

"The final decision about a new site is yet to be made."

Chen told reporters local authorities would spend three years building a new Beichuan, which would feature the distinctive Qiang culture, strong industry and tourism.

Beichuan is the only Qiang autonomous county in the country, but the quake almost destroyed its culture completely.

"We must preserve the Qiang culture while rebuilding the county," Chen said.

The old county seat would also be developed into a scenic spot in future, he said.

Road to slow recovery

Currently, all the homeless in Beichuan have been given temporary shelter in tents or prefab homes at 364 resettlement locations, Chen said.

With the support of the eastern Shandong Province, local authorities planned to build 40,000 prefab homes, of which 8,781 had been finished.

Local government also allocated nearly 32 million yuan (4.7 million US dollars) for the quake survivors as relief cash and 3.24 million yuan for relatives of the dead.

"The agricultural and industrial production are now recovering gradually," Chen said.

Local farmers have planted 187,500 mu (12,500 hectares) of corn, rice and beans and 15,000 mu of vegetable after the quake.

A hydropower station has restarted operation and a concrete factory has started rebuilding.

"We have organized more than 1,200 people to work in Shandong and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region," Chen said.

The 8.0-magnitude quake centered in Wenchuan County had left 69,181 people dead, 374,171 injured, 18,498 missing and millions homeless as of Monday noon.

More than 13,000 aftershocks were reported after the devastating quake, with the strongest measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale.

In terms of the intensity and scope of destruction, the quake surpassed the 7.8-magnitude quake in 1976 in Tangshan, northern Hebei Province. That disaster claimed more than 240,000 lives.

(Xinhua News Agency June 24, 2008)

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