Pressure from a dam, its reservoir’s heavy waters weighing on geologic, may have helped trigger China’s devastating earthquake last May, some scientists say, in a finding that suggests human activity played a role in the disaster.
The magnitude-7.9 quake in Sichuan province was China’s worst in a generation, causing 70,000 deaths and leaving 5 million homeless. Just 550 yards (meters) from the fault line and 3.5 miles (5.5 kilometers) from the epicenter stands the 511-foot-high (156-meter-high) Zipingpu dam, the area’s largest. The quake cracked Zipingpu, forcing the reservoir to be drained.
By CHI-CHI ZHANG, Associate Press Writer
Fan Xiao, a chief engineer at the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau, said Wednesday that the immense weight of Zipingpu’s waters — 315 million tons — likely affected the timing and magnitude of the quake. Though earthquakes are not rare in the area, one of such magnitude had not occurred for thousands of years, Fan said.
“I’m not saying the earthquake would not have happened without the dam, but the presence of the massive Zipingpu dam may have changed the size or time of the quake, thus creating a more violent quake,” Fan said in a telephone interview.