Pressure from Zipingpu dam could have amplified Sichuan quake that killed 70,000

A Chinese dam built close to fault lines may have been partly to blame for the devastating Sichuan earthquake, which killed around 70,000 people last May.

That is the conclusion of the chief engineer at the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau, who said last week that pressure from the Zipingpu reservoir had probably affected the timing and scale of the quake.

He believes that the 315 million tonnes of water in the 156m dam may have put pressure on fault lines, causing extra friction or forcing the lines apart.

Speaking to Associated Press, Fan Xiao 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.”

Xiao, who is supported in his conclusions by experts at Columbia University in New York, said he had opposed construction of the dam in 2003 over safety concerns.

The quake, which measured 7.9 on the Richter scale, destroyed whole communities and left 5 million homeless.

The China Earthquake Administration has denied that dams can cause earthquakes.