Large earthquake again strikes near central Vietnam dam

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Local residents in Quang Nam are scared to return to their homes after a 4.6-magnitude earthquake struck Monday night

A district in Quang Nam Province with the biggest hydropower dam in central Vietnam, which has been rocked by a series of earthquakes since late last year, recorded the largest yet on Monday night.

At magnitude 4.6 it is the largest out of the hundreds that have struck Bac Tra My District since the Song Tranh 2 dam was completed in late 2011. The previous largest was a 4.5 quake in September.

Its epicenter was 65 kilometers from the dam.

Locals said it occurred at around 8:40 p.m., and lasted for around seven seconds.

Dang Phong, chairman of the district, said: "The earthquake lasted rather long, and [we heard] loud explosions beneath the ground."

The district authorities said it caused cracks in 246 houses, causing damage worth VND1.2 billion (US$57,600).

So far more than 820 buildings have been damaged in the area.

Phong said though local residents have been trained to respond during earthquakes, there was a lot of panic during the latest quake.

Experts say that the VND4.15 trillion ($197.53 million) dam has been built on fault lines, increasing the chances of earthquakes due to increased pressure caused by absorption of water into the fault lines. This is known as reservoir-induced seismicity.

They warn that the dam could cause a 6.1-magnitude quake.

Evacuation plans have already been discussed.

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State-owned Electricity of Vietnam, which built the dam, has not paid any compensation to local residents, but promised not to store water in the dam during the monsoon season this year.

It has also come under fire, along with operators of other hydropower plants in the region, for worsening floods by releasing excess water without giving advance notice to people living downstream.

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