Chinese troops rush to plug dam cracks

As the death toll from Monday's 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Sichuan province climbed to more than 19,500, the Chinese authorities said that almost 400 dams around the quake epicentre had been damaged. Troops scrambled on Wednesday to plug cracks and open sluices to prevent flooding in already devastated communities.

He Biao, from the Aba Disaster Relief headquarters in northern Sichuan, was quoted as saying were concerns over dams and reservoirs close to Wenchuan, the epicentre of the quake. He said problems at the Tulong Reservoir on the Minjiang, or the Min River, could lead to collapse. "If that happens, it would affect several power plants below and be extremely dangerous," he said.

The earthquake damaged 391 dams around the quake epicentre, official reports said on Wednesday. But Caijing magazine reported on Thursday that the quake had damaged 803 dams across Sichuan province, citing provincial flood relief officials.

Xinhua said 2,000 troops were sent to work on the Zipingpu dam in order to prevent the nearby city of Dujiangyan from being "swamped". The Ministry of Water Resources says the dam is now safe.

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