Chinese officials today began a three-day drill to ensure that they can quickly relocate 1.3 million people at risk if a lake created by this month's devastating earthquake floods the area.
Soldiers and dozens of earthmovers have been working around the clock to carve diversion channels from the swelling Tangjiashan lake in the Mianyang region, one of dozens of lakes formed after chunks of mountains gave way and clogged raging rivers. The crews have been hampered by heavy rain and the threat of aftershocks that could trigger more landslides.
About 200,000 people who live close to the Tangjiashan lake already are being moved to higher ground as a precaution.
The drill is expected to test the effectiveness of communications among various levels of government officials. The methods used for alerting residents would include telephone, radio and television messages, according to the People's Daily newspaper.
The threat of massive flooding is the latest facing quake-ravaged central China. The death toll from the magnitude 7.9 quake that struck May 12 has climbed to 68,858, with hundreds of thousands of people injured and millions left homeless.
The scale of the disaster has triggered a groundswell of public and private support from around China and the world -- and raised concerns that some aid might be falling into the wrong hands.
Hundreds of residents in the provincial capital of Chengdu clashed with police last week when they spotted blue tents, which are meant to house survivors, pitched near wealthy housing developments. The protesters demanded an investigation of how the precious relief items were distributed.
A website posted photographs of blue tents allegedly being used by a county official for his family even though they did not live in the danger zone.
Because donation drives during previous disasters often led to misallocation and missing funds, many Chinese have expressed wariness about how aid is being spent. China's leading charity organizations Friday vowed to offer the public transparency and honest accounting to avert embezzlement and deception.
"We need to offer people a very clear understanding of how we use the funds," said Liu Guolin of the China Charity Federation, which has received more than $130 million in donations.
Jiang Yiman, executive vice president of the Chinese Red Cross, tried to dispel rumors that the charity had sought receipts for higher amounts than it had actually paid for relief supplies, potentially a way to hide the skimming of donation money.
"The procurement rules and procedures are strictly followed," said Jiang, adding that the reputation of the group had been hurt by impostors who allegedly used the Red Cross name to raise money via the Internet for personal profit.
Another area of sensitivity for Beijing is the management of foreign aid to the quake zone. The Japanese government said Friday that it would drop plans to send military planes to China to deliver supplies.
Relations have improved recently between the Asian neighbors, and the Chinese welcomed a 60-member civilian emergency rescue team sent by Japan shortly after the quake. However, some Chinese expressed concern about the potential sight of Japanese military planes, citing the bombing raids Tokyo's forces carried out during World War II.
"Help can take other forms," someone wrote in an Internet posting. "Please do not add injury to those you are trying to help."