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Chinese Official Confirms a China Dam Break Caused India Floods

[Reuters, July 10, 2000.]

BEIJING, Jul 10, 2000 -- (Reuters) A Chinese official on Monday confirmed a dam breach in Tibet caused floods that wreaked havoc in northeastern India, claiming 30 lives and leaving more than 100 missing.

Indian officials have said they have seen images from a satellite that showed flash floods hit the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh two weeks ago after a Chinese dam on the Tsangpo river was breached.

An official of China's Water Resources Department of the Tibet Autonomous Region government in Lhasa told AFP Monday the 60 meters high and 2.5 kilometers wide dam was actually not an artificial dam, but a natural one, formed by a major landslide that occurred on April 9,

"That landslide, the biggest ever seen in Asia and the third biggest in the world, created a dam in a matter of eight minutes," said the official, who declined to be identified.

He said the Tibet government spent over 60 million yuan (7.2 million dollars) to canalize the river, but couldn't prevent the dam from collapsing recently.

He refused to say anymore without permission and warned that Tibet was a very sensitive issue with Beijing.

The landslide was not reported in Chinese State media and apparently not explained to the Indian government.

The Arunachal Pradesh government was still looking into the exact cause of the dam breach Monday and has urged the Indian Prime Minister and home minister to take up the matter with their Chinese counterparts.

"We strongly believe there could be artificial reasons for the river Siang to flood the hills, State Minister of Information and Public Relations Takam Sanjay told AFP.

"The source of the Siang river is in China and we want the Indian government to get detailed information and investigate the matter in collaboration with their Chinese counterparts," he said.

"Floods of this magnitude were never ever recorded in our history," he added.

The Tsangpo river, which originates in Tibet, flows into India and is called Siang in Arunachal Pradesh before it becomes the Brahmaputra.

More than 50,000 people in five districts of Arunachal Pradesh were left homeless by the floods in the past two weeks, while several parts of the state were still cut off from the rest of the country.

The death toll is estimated at 30.

The Arunachal Pradesh government had put the estimated loss at more than one billion rupees (22.9 million dollars).


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