Thousands of Chinese soldiers rushed yesterday to repair a dam badly cracked by the country’s massive earthquake, while rescuers arrived for the first time in the epicentre of the disaster to find whole villages flattened.

The death toll in Monday’s massive quake stood at almost 15,000, but with tens of thousands of people still missing and buried, there were fears it could soar much higher.

China’s top economic planning body said the quake damaged 391 mostly small dams. It also left “extremely dangerous” cracks in the Zipingpu Dam upriver from the earthquake-hit city of Dujiangyan and some 2,000 soldiers were sent to repair the damage, the official Xinhua news agency reported.


He Biao, director of the Aba Disaster Relief headquarters in northern Sichuan province, said there were also concerns over dams closer to the epicentre.

“Currently, the most dangerous problems are several reservoirs near Wenchuan,” he said.

“There are already serious problems with the Tulong Reservoir on the Min River. It may collapse. If that happens, it would affect several power plants below and be extremely dangerous,” he said.

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