The world has watched as soldiers race against time to carve a spillway in the Tangjiashan 'quake lake', but elsewhere in Sichuan , air force political commissar Chen Hui and 800 soldiers have claimed success in easing pressure in the swollen Wenjiaba lake. Wenjiaba was formed when landslides in Pingwu county brought down mountainsides, blocking more than 10 million cubic metres of water and threatening Nanba township. Crisis was averted on Sunday after the commissar and his troops worked for 15 hours to finish clearing a 600-metre channel to drain water from the lake without using explosives. 'Blasting away the debris using explosives was not good, and presented dangers because the quake lake experienced further landslides,' Mr Chen said yesterday. Mr Chen has spurred his troops on from one impossible mission to another since they arrived in the disaster zone one day after the earthquake. 'My slogan to the soldiers is 'time means life to disaster victims',' he said. Mr Chen and his soldiers were the first troops to march 58km into Nanba when all transport, electricity and communication was cut. 'The people cried and knelt down in front of us when we showed up ... I felt sorry that I didn't get there sooner.' The soldiers, carrying simple tools such as picks and shovels, were the only hope for people trapped in the debris. 'I am a veteran, but I still couldn't help crying when I saw those scenes,' the commissar said. 'My soldiers' hands were bloodied and clawed after digging by hand through debris for hours to rescue people.' The soldiers also trekked for hours through mountains to help stranded villagers, carrying out the elderly and injured on their backs. The town was still blocked by landslides on May 15, so the troops were given another difficult mission - to build a bridge to the community. They cut about 5,000 pieces of bamboo and filled 60,000 nylon bags with rocks. Six days later, the 160-metre bridge was finished.