Quake-causing Vietnam dam: General discusses evacuation plans

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A top military official visited the central province of Quang Nam Tuesday to discuss plans to evacuate people in case Song Tranh 2 hydropower dam, which is thought to have triggered hundreds of earthquakes, breaks.

Major General Nguyen Quy Nhon inspected the dam and discussed evacuation plans involving tens of thousands of families in Bac Tra My District with Quang Nam military authorities and district officials.

There have been arguments between experts, local authorities, and the dam operator, the state-owned monopoly Electricity of Vietnam, about the safety of the dam.

Experts have blamed the quakes on the increased pressure caused by absorption of water into fault lines, which is triggering seismic activity, but said, as has EVN, that the dam has been designed well and is safe.

But officials have been uneasy and said they cannot reassure residents.

The evacuation plans require people to run to high ground where rescue forces will provide food and other essentials.

Nhon asked local authorities to make detailed plans as what routes evacuees would take, what means of transport they would be provided, and when they would move.

He said every single resident needs to be apprised about the plan.

"Although experts have said the dam is safe, we still need the most careful and flexible evacuation plan possible."

The province has also asked experts from the Vietnam National Geophysics Institute to instruct people in Bac Tra My and neighboring districts in dealing with possible future quakes.

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Also on Tuesday the Quang Nam government asked the Construction Department to check houses and other buildings near the dam and provide safety advice, and demanded that EVN paid compensation to affected families and schools.

More than 250 houses and ten public buildings, mostly schools, developed cracks and sank due to the earthquakes in September.

In earlier quakes, when 17 houses, two schools, and a government office developed major cracks, local authorities estimated the damage at more than VND1 billion (US$48,000).

EVN has promised not to store water in the dam during the monsoon starting soon. The dam began to leak water in March, and many of the cracks were fixed by August 30.

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