Landslide hits town by Three Gorges Dam in China

BEIJING (AP) -- Chinese authorities evacuated about 200 people living near the Three Gorges Dam in central China because of a landslide, state media and local officials said Monday.

The landslide hit Sunday in Hubei province, inundating 37 homes and a primary school with rocks and mud, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Residents were evacuated to a temporary shelter before the landslide hit and no casualties were reported.

Government official Liu Ximei said the landslide began Saturday afternoon.

Nearly 830,000 people in Hubei have been affected by heavy rain that has poured down on the area since Friday, Xinhua said. In addition to the landslide, the rain has caused flash floods, and two people have been killed, Xinhua said.

The rain was likely continue for the next few days, Xinhua said.

By Sunday night, the ground-floor classrooms at the Gaoyang Town Center Primary School were covered with a yard of mud from the landslide, Xinhua said.

Xing Xinzhou of the local Xingshan county propaganda office said Monday the area was now fairly stable. He said the students were away for a three-day holiday.

The rain also washed away 71,000 cubic feet of mud in Xiaohe village in Gaoyang Township, about 155 miles upstream from the Three Gorges Dam, Xinhua said.

Landslides in the area are occurring more frequently in recent years as the water level rises in the dam's 410-mile-long reservoir.

Experts have warned that the water in the enormous reservoir is undermining hillsides. Water seeps into loosely packed soil and rocks, making them heavier and wetter, and can trigger landslides on steep slopes rising from the Yangtze River.

The $22 billion dam, the world's biggest hydroelectric project, was supposed to end flooding along the Yangtze and provide a clean energy alternative to coal. Approved in 1992 and due to be completed in 2009, it will generate 84.7 billion kilowatts of electricity each year.

More than 1.4 million people have been relocated so far to make way for the dam.

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