'Many Missing' in Dam Burst

People in China's Zhejiang province expect casualties to mount after a major dam collapses.
2012-08-10
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Rescuers clean up debris after a dam burst near Zhoushan city, Aug. 10, 2012.
Imaginechina

Residents of the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang cast doubts on the official death toll after a large dam collapsed on Friday, flooding the surrounding area, as rescuers continue to search for missing people in the wake of Typhoon Haikui.

Official media reported that 10 people had died after the 28.5-meter-high dam burst and loosed the waters of the Shenjiakeng reservoir across countryside near Zhoushan city, with an estimated 27 injuries.

However, the number of casualties could rise further, local people said.

"They haven't accounted for everyone yet," a resident of nearby Changtu township who declined to be named told RFA. She said the town was full of ambulances and rescue vehicles rushing back and forth.

She added that many people living near the dam had been undocumented migrant workers from inland regions. "Some people were from other provinces; households that we don't even know about."

"I don't think [the rescue effort] is very effective," she added. "It happened very early [this morning] but when people were calling in for help, it seems that people didn't reach them until much later."

"It took them nearly an hour to reach them."

'Suppress'

Asked if the authorities had reported the full extent of casualties, she said: "The media is bound to try to suppress this."

Teams of experts were sent to the scene, while local rescue teams vowed "all-out efforts" to locate the missing, the English-language China Daily newspaper reported in the wake of torrential rains which have lashed China's eastern seaboard at the trailing edge of typhoon Haikui.

An employee who answered the phone at the Daishan County People's Hospital said it had been overwhelmed with casualties in the wake of the disaster.

"There have been a very large number [of casualties]," the employee said, describing their injuries as "all kinds."

"There was one person who didn't make it, but the others are doing OK."

But he declined to give exact details. "If you want to know exactly how many people it was, you'll have to talk to our bosses," he said.

Calls to all other listed numbers at the hospital went unanswered, however.

Some netizens posted to popular microblogging services that the Shenjiakeng dam was old and had been falling into disrepair since the local government had handed it over to a private entrepreneur who was running a water purification plant at the reservoir.

Photographs

Photographs of the disaster-hit area in state-run media showed flattened houses and teams of rescue workers forming human chains in waist-deep flood-water.

Zhejiang has been lashed by downpours over the last few days with the arrival of typhoon Haikui, which landed in the province early Wednesday morning, the official news agency Xinhua reported.

Last month, heavy rainstorms and massive floods engulfed the streets of Beijing, killing at least 37 people and stranding tens of thousands of travelers and evacuees who had fled their homes.

The floods sparked allegations that the authorities had tried to cover up the true number of casualties, as well as widespread public anger over the absence of adequate drainage in a city which has promoted itself as world-class.

Reported by Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.