Residents stand in a street after an aftershock from the recent earthquake in Chengdu China's Sichuan province, China, Sunday (yesterday Jamaica time). - AP
BEICHUAN, China (AP):
Thousands of Chinese earthquake victims fled areas near the epicentre on Saturday, fearful of floods from rivers blocked by landslides rattled loose in this past week's powerful temblor.
Soldiers carried older people out of Beichuan town - one of the areas hit hardest by the magnitude 7.9 quake, whose confirmed death toll jumped Saturday to nearly 29,000 - while survivors cradled babies on a road jammed with vehicles and people. The government says the final toll is expected to exceed 50,000.
The evacuation underscored the jitters running through the disaster zone. A severe aftershock - the second in two days and measured by the US Geological Survey at magnitude 6 - shook the area early Sunday morning (yesterday in China) for 45 seconds, causing people to run into the streets.
A policeman told The Associated Press that rescue officials were worried water from a choked river would inundate the town.
river threatens to burst its banks
"The river was jammed up by a landslide; now that may burst," the policeman said as he hurried by, not giving his name.
"I'm very scared. I heard that the water will be crashing down here," said Liang Xiao, one of the people fleeing.
The official Xinhua News Agency said earlier that a lake in Beichuan county "may burst its bank at any time." Residents left for higher ground, but 46 seriously injured were still at risk, the agency said.
Further north, a mountain sheared off by the quake cut the Qingzhu river and covered three villages in a valley near Qingchuan. No traces remained of the villages, swallowed up by a huge mound of earth, behind which water from the river was backing up.
Xinhua said more than 2,000 people were evacuated from near that area.
Rain began to fall in Qingchuan county on Saturday evening for the first time since the initial quake, the agency reported - increasing the risk of floods and more building collapses and worsening living conditions for homeless survivors sheltered under tents and makeshift canopies.
The confirmed death toll rose Saturday to 28,881, Cabinet spokesman Guo Weimin said.
Many still buried
More than 10,600 people remained buried since Monday in Sichuan province, the regional government said, according to Xinhua.
The government has decided to give 5,000 yuan (US$715,) in temporary compensation to each family who had lost a member in the earthquake, China National Radio said Saturday. At a State Council meeting hosted by Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing, the government also decided it would also hand out a daily ration of food and 10 yuan (US$1.4) to victims, the report said.