10 killed as military dam bursts in Zhejiang

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:23pm


A reservoir dam collapsed yesterday on an island in Zhejiang province, killing at least 10 people and injuring 27.

But some residents suspected the death toll could be more than triple the official figure. They said the reservoir was reserved for military use, and many of the victims were elderly rural residents.

The tragedy follows the landing of tropical cyclone Haikui on Wednesday, which brought 400mm to 537mm of rain to major cities across Zhejiang on Thursday.

The accident happened at 5am, according to the China News Service. The dam, about 100 kilometres offshore on Daishan Island, Zhoushan, came apart for unknown reasons. It released more than 180,000 cubic metres of water and destroyed at least one village: Shenjiakeng.

The island, home to more than 15,000 people, has no natural fresh water. Residents rely almost entirely on rainwater from reservoirs that have been built across the island.

Residents said the dam belonged to the military but the victims were all civilians. The exact location of the dam is not listed on public maps.

The manager of a hotel in Changtu, the main town on Daishan, said the island was often used by the navy and army due to its strategic position near Shanghai.

The hotel manager said none of the dam's water went to residents. 'Before, we didn't have tap water and were quite envious when the dam was finished and a supply of freshwater became available, but went only to soldiers, officers and their relatives living on military bases.

'They never shared a single drop with us. It has always been off-limits to civilians.'

Another hotel manager said most residents had moved to the town, and only elderly people stayed in remote villages like the one destroyed by the accident.

'Neighbours who have just returned from the area say most of the victims were elderly couples,' she said. 'Some died embracing each other.'

The government headquarters for Changtu could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Professor Zhang Boting, deputy secretary general of the China Society for Hydropower Engineering, said many small dams were not properly maintained, and that not enough safety checks were carried out due to a lack of funds and manpower.

'The situation is worse with dams that do not generate electricity.

'If a dam can generate power, the revenue will give local governments and private companies greater incentives to ensure it is safe.'