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Residents flee Mianyang for fear of flood
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Liu Ce is one of the many residents leaving Mianyang to avoid the devastation Tangjiashan quake lake can cause if it burst its banks.

The 54-year-old's house is on the bank of Fujiang River, and could be among the first to be swept away when the temporary lake's waters come gushing down the mountains.

Liu has stuffed as many clothes as possible into his land cruiser, and says he will drive to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, from where he will fly to Qingdao in Shandong province.

"I really don't want to leave Mianyang. I have lived here for more than 30 years ... the city was so beautiful," he says. "But leaving seems to be the best choice because no one knows what will happen to the city," Liu says, pointing to people walking past with their belongings and folded tents. He has chosen Qingdao because his nephew lives there.

More than 100,000 Mianyang residents, are expected to leave in the next couple of days, after which experts fear the lake could break its banks and flow into the Jianjiang River that, in turn, flows into the Fujiang River.

The local government will start sounding the siren 24 hours before the lake is feared to overflow or burst its banks. But people are not ready to take any chances and have started moving to safer places.

Some of them have started carrying the tents relief workers had pitched or given them as temporary shelters. The result: about half of the tents distributed or pitched in Qingnian Square on the riverbank had disappeared by last night.

Also, not many of those leaving Mianyang are as lucky as Liu. Since they neither have a car nor any relative in another city, they have chosen to seek shelter on nearby hills.

Retired worker Li Baogui, who has lived on the square since the quake, says he would move into a high school on top of a hill near the river.

The authorities closed stores, groceries and kindergartens on both sides of the river on Friday after getting a notice from the local government.

The quake lake in the lower reaches of the Jianjiang River has more than 130 million cu m of water, which is just 26 m away from reaching the highest possible level.

About 600 people, including troops and engineers are working to blow up the quake-created barrier in the river to let water flow out slowly, and prevent its level to rise any further.

"The level of the Fujiang River may rise by about 15 meters if the lake's barrier breaks completely," says a police officer surnamed Zhang. "Then the water can reach the third floor of some buildings even in the city center."

The fear of an epidemic outbreak after the flood, too, is forcing people to flee the city. Most of the wards in No. 404 Hospital, which has the only infectious diseases department in Mianyang, have been vacated.

"Most of the patients have been moved to other cities and provinces," says nurse Li Zenghong, "Because almost all the hospitals in the city are preparing for the flood too."

(China Daily May 28, 2008)

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