Ngo Thi Lu of the Vietnam Geophysics Institute checks a crack in a kindergarten wall in Quang Nam Province, caused by earthquakes suspected to be triggered off by the giant Song Tranh 2 dam.
Seven earthquakes struck near the giant Song Tranh 2 dam in the central province of Quang Nam Sunday, after earlier ones caused an estimated damage of more than VND1 billion (US$48,000) to local buildings.
Tran Anh Tuan, deputy chairman of Bac Tra My District, which is located beside the dam and has been hit by several tremors, told news website VnExpress that 17 houses, two schools, and a government office have developed major cracks.
On early Sunday six smaller quakes occurred before a large one at around 11 a.m. that lasted ten seconds caused locals to flee. The large one was recorded at 4.1 magnitude.
More cracks developed at a school and two houses following the tremors.
Despite a number of appeals from local authorities, victims have received no compensation from the state-owned monopoly Electricity of Vietnam, the operator of the hydropower dam.
Tuan said the district has used VND500 million (US$24,000) of its own funds to fix the damage.
There have been almost 30 quakes since September 3, one of them being just five kilometers beneath the surface.
The problem began in November 2011 after the VND4.15 trillion ($197.53 million) dam was built, and hundreds of tremors have been reported since. Experts blame them on the increased pressure caused by absorption of water into fault lines, which is triggering seismic activity.
They warn that the dam itself is being damaged and can be destroyed even if there are no further quakes. The dam began to leak water in March, and many cracks were fixed by August 30.
Many including local authorities have opposed EVN's plan to store water again in the dam, but are worried that the government would approve it.
Tuan said if the government does approve, the Quang Nam administration would demand that it take responsibility for people's safety, and that water be stored gradually so that any possible disaster would not be too serious.
Quang Nam authorities have also drafted emergency measures to evacuate people, while the Vietnam Geophysics Institute has inviting foreign experts to study the problem in October.
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