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Geologist Warns of Tibet Rail Quake Risk

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 02/04/15; April 15, 2002.]

Friday, April 12, 2002
MARK O'NEILL in Beijing South China Morning Post

An earthquake or tremor could cut the rail line China is building to Tibet, the chief geologist in charge of the project said yesterday.

Hu Daogong is chief of the project team at the China Geology and Science College that conducts surveys of the route on which the line is being built.

Work began last June on the line, which runs 1,142km from Xining, capital of Qinghai province, to Lhasa, capital of Tibet, and is due to take six years.

About 960km is above 4,000 metres, reaching 5,072 metres above sea level at its highest point. It will be the first time that a railway has entered Tibet.

"The line goes over an area of frozen earth that is subject to earthquake and earth tremors," Mr Hu said. "They could cut the line at any time. Only God knows.

"All we can do is to pass our research on to the Ministry of Railways, to give to the workers constructing the line, so that they can take it into account when they build the tunnels and bridges, to make them withstand these natural disasters and reduce the dangers as much as possible.

"There would be no point in changing the route, since the problems would be the same."

Mr Hu's team was called into action after a major earthquake in November, registering 8.1 on the Richter scale and centred in the Kunshan mountains, cut across the route of the line and raised the ground by up to 1.5 metres.

The State Council ordered further surveys of the line and Mr Hu's team made more recommendations to the construction teams.

Formed over the past million years, the Qinghai-Tibet plateau is more prone to earthquakes and tremors than plateaus elsewhere in the world, according to the Beijing Youth Daily.

The line is one of the biggest construction projects of the Communist era, with all the cost being borne by the central Government.

Some exiled Tibetan groups oppose the construction, saying it will lead to a flood of Han Chinese settlers, making Tibetans a minority in their homeland. They argue that there is no economic reason for the line, given the small size of the Tibetan economy, and say it is being built for military and strategic reasons.

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