Foreign experts to study quakes near Vietnam dam

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The Song Tranh 2 dam, the biggest in central Vietnam, is thought to have triggered a series of earthquakes since it was built in late 2010

Two leading foreign earthquake experts will come to Vietnam in November to study the tremors occurring near a large dam in the central region, which local experts said are normal but have left local authorities uneasy.

Professor Harsh K. Gupta from India and one from Poland, whose name has not been revealed, will meet with Vietnamese scientists to discuss the series of earthquakes that have occurred near the Song Tranh 2 dam in Quang Nam Province, and hold a short training course in assessing and dealing with earthquakes, news website Dan Tri reported Thursday, citing a source from the Vietnam Institute of Geophysics.

They are among many foreign experts to attend a conference on earthquakes and tsunamis in Vietnam, Dr Nguyen Hong Phuong, deputy director of the institute's Tsunami and Earthquake Department, said.

Gupta researched and published several papers on earthquakes induced by the Koyna dam in India, including one of 6.3 magnitude in 1967, that caused the dam to overflow, killing 200 people. The dam had been built in 1963.

The biggest of the 17 earthquakes in Bac Tra My District near Song Tranh 2 this month was of 4.2 magnitude.

Vietnamese scientists said they are "normal" reservoir-induced quakes due to increased water pressure, but local authorities and residents have remained skeptical.

The dams also developed cracks in March, which were only recently fixed.

The first of the quakes occurred in October 2010, soon after the dam was built, and there were more in April after the cracks appeared.

Local people have been living in a state of panic. Many have packed clothes and blankets so that they can flee at a moment's notice, others have moved out of their cracked brick houses and into wooden ones. Children have been pulled out of schools near the dam.

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State monopoly Electricity of Vietnam, which built the dam, wants to store water again in the dam, but Quang Nam authorities and some experts have rejected the proposal.

The Vietnam Institute of Geophysics said it is working quickly to set up five seismic stations in the area.

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