Chinese authorities have evacuated some 200,000 people from an earthquake-devastated area facing risk of flood from a temblor-spawned giant lake, under a plan that has also put a million more people on alert.
Hundreds of troops and experts worked round the clock to drain Tangjiashan lake, which was formed when landslides triggered by the 8 magnitude quake on May 12 blocked the JianJiang river, in the southwest Sichuan province.
Work on a channel designed to discharge flooded water from the lake had been completed and the water was expected to start flowing from June one to three, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Yue Xi, deputy chief of water section of the People's Armed Police Force, as saying.
Office of the State Council or the cabinet said death toll in China's worst natural disaster in three decades climbed to 68,977, a rise of 119 from yesterday's figure, which is the smallest single-day rise since the release of daily official toll began.
The Office said 17,974 people have still been listed as missing, while aftershocks continued to rumble across the quake-struck areas. In the 24 hours ending this noon, 215 aftershocks were recorded in the disaster zone, China Seismological Bureau said.
Xinhua said the first group of earthquake relief workers grappling with the threat posed by the Tangjiashan lake were evacuated from the dam site and 350 others would leave today and tomorrow.
It said 1,97,477 people living downstream of Tangjiashan in the main urban districts of Mianyang had been shifted to safer grounds, while two other plans require the relocation of 1.2 million people if half of the lake water volume was released or 1.3 million if the barrier fully opens.