Tangjiashan Quake Lake Drains

The Tiangjiashan quake lake is draining, and officials have declared a “decisive victory”. Like Wellington said after the Battle of Waterloo, it was a damned close run thing.

Without demeaning the 10-day effort put into cutting drainage channels in extremely trying  conditions, it was in the end the crude tactic of blasting holes in the rock and mud holding back the waters that released the torrent of water needed to get the quake lake’s levels subsiding.

The flow of water through the spillway peaked, as far as one can tell, at 80 cu. meters a second, while the inflow was at least 115 cu meters a second. After two massive blasts on Monday evening which broke through what Xinhua called the “bottleneck” in the spillway, the water outflow surged to  6,420 cubic meters per second before slowing to o a steady 3,888 cubic meters per second by early Tuesday afternoon, dropping the lake’s level by 20 meters and emptying half the water that was in it at its peak. The outflow, though, was still much faster than originally planned, and as TV shots of the river well down stream showed, a river bed that was nearly dry an hour and a half away form Tangjiashan, was in full flow.

This is an important propaganda victory for the authorities and the army, too. Attempts to drain the lake have been front and center of state media reports, displacing concerns about the shoddy construction of schools. For a while it looked as if the story might have a catastrophically bad ending in all regards. And the story isn’t fully over. There is still a lot of lake water being held back by no more than an unstable landslide, and rainy season ahead.

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