Massive mudslides resulting from days of heavy rain have devastated a hydropower station construction site in China’s southwestern Sichuan Province.
At this time the scale of the disaster is impossible to know with accuracy, with an official death toll of 10 and unofficial estimates ranging from the hundreds to 20,000 dead. Netizens also report that guards are restricting access to the disaster area because of the presence of an underground nuclear research facility.
Those with knowledge of the area have urgently asked for help and prayer.
Rocks and mud began crashing down during the night of Aug. 30 at the Jinping hydropower station construction site in Liangshan Prefecture of Sichuan Province.
By the morning of Aug. 31, more than 30 places reported damaged roads, tunnels, and bridges, and the complete interruption of transportation, communication, and power. The No. 3 construction camp was the most affected area, with heavy casualties reported by locals.
In the afternoon of Aug. 31 mudslides, landslides, and rocks were still coming down in many places at three sites within the larger dam construction area.
According to the state-run Chinanews.com, 10 people died, 14 have gone missing, and rescue work has started.
A press release by the Ertan Hydropower Development Company press claimed that there were no casualties among the 13,000 employees at the No. 3 construction camp (Camp 3).
Chinese officials have remained mostly silent about the disaster.
With no media able to report the scene at Camp 3, the official reports regarded by most Chinese as unreliable, and censors deleting blog posts about the disaster, the situation at Jinping is impossible to know with any accuracy.
Tang Bo, a reporter with Southern Metropolis Daily, posted this message on his Sina microblog on Aug. 31, at 6:05 p.m.: “My friend called me for help. He said mudslides happened at the No. 3 construction site of the Jinping hydropower station in Mianning County, Liangshan Prefecture in Sichuan Province.
“He said of the tens of thousands construction workers, hundreds were buried, and over 100 are confirmed dead. The actual number is not available. As of now there is no internal rescue in place. … They can only hope for external rescue. They couldn’t get cellphone signals except at the top of mountains. They’re begging us for help. (Contact person Zhang Xinyuan, 18781580749).”
Tang Bo’s blog was blocked by censors, but before it was blocked, it was forwarded.
It has now been forwarded over 100,000 times, including by some people who are well known, but censors have been busy deleting the post.
Wang Ran, CEO of ECapital Ltd., sent this blog, “My new re-posting was deleted. Re-posting again.”
Property tycoon Ren Zhiqiang wrote, “Authorities, please put out an announcement as soon as possible!”
Other people posted their impressions of the disaster.
Mashimaro1231 said: “Most of those killed at the No. 3 construction site were migrant workers living in modular houses. The ‘several hundred’ [casualty] number is very conservative. There are indeed tens of thousands living at the No. 3 construction site. You can research the size of the power station area on Baidu.com and see if the number is wrong.”
Mutukoukou said: “How come the media is silent about something this big? We cannot count on CCTV, we need to use the Internet to spread the news and help them. Time is life!”
Netizen FaSeLueLang wrote: “Not sure about the situation inside, they won’t let anyone enter. Even media are not allowed to report. Pictures uploaded online were all deleted. My friend said at least 10,000 people are buried at Jinping. Over a thousand dead bodies have been washed out.”
One local told Sound of Hope Radio the likely death toll is 20,000.
Tang Bo, the Southern Metropolis reporter, also reported the claims that media could not get to the disaster site.
On Sept. 1, at 7:36 p.m., Tang posted an update: “Manning, Liangshan. It’s been continuously raining. Many media people are trapped here. It takes five to six hours to get from the town to scene. The mountain road is hard to walk, and it’s raining really hard. People need to be careful! We were told that armed police are guarding the route; you can’t enter without permission. Will rely on our ability to break through!”
According to a report in the Sichuan Daily, the No. 3 construction site is located in the valley area, and the landslides caused by heavy rainfalls have clogged the valley, causing “almost every one of the more than 30 buildings to be flooded on the first floor.”
Some workers are staying on the second or higher floors, and some have started moving to nearby plants that have not been affected by the mudslide and flood. “There are workers trapped inside, with no water or electricity, and a shortage of food,” the Sichuan Daily reported.
Nuclear Research Facility
Netizens say that guards are restricting access to the areas hit by the mudslides because of an underground nuclear research facility that is there.
According to a Dec. 12, 2010, Chinanews report, China’s first extremely deep underground laboratory at Sichuan Jinping hydropower station went into operation that day. It is located under rock 2,400 meters deep, and is at the time the deepest underground laboratory in the world.
According to Chinanews, the deep underground laboratory will open the research field of dark matter detection and neutrino physics in particle physics and nuclear physics, astrophysics, and cosmology.
A research team from Tsinghua University started working at the laboratory in 2010, and a Jiaotong University research team was supposed to start working there in 2011, the report said.
The only access of Camp III to the outside world is the Jinping AB tunnel. It was severely damaged and is now guarded by armed police.
Mr. Wang, a worker at Camp III told The Epoch Times by phone, “The China Jinping Underground Laboratory is managed by both Ertan Hydropower Development Company and Tsinghua University and surrounded by mountains. There is a deep tunnel, right underneath the AB tunnel.”
Netizen Kang Yupeng wrote, “Jinping hydropower station is China’s largest nuclear physics research location.”
Netizen Mou Ma posted: “Jinping does have a dark matter laboratory. So if everyday people want to enter, that’s not possible. The local security forces will not allow entrance. If you can communicate with them [those who are trapped], try to teach them ways to save themselves. Waiting for external help is too difficult.”
Lanchumeizhuyi posted: “My brother-in-law is working at that construction site. Luckily he is away in Chengdu these days. My sister said communication is out now, and no one can reach people at the construction site. The situation is unclear. Please pray for these people and hope for their safety!”
Additional reporting by Gu Qing’er
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