Confusion over China lake alert

China's state news agency said today 1.3 million people had been ordered to move to higher ground for fear a "quake lake" caused by this month's devastating earthquake could burst its mud and rock dam, but the announcment was immediately denied by an official spokesman.

Tan Li, Communist Party Secretary of Mianyang city, "issued an order that 1.3 million people living downstream from Tangjiashan, a swelling quake-induced lake, must evacuate to higher ground marked by government bodies", Xinhua news agency said, specifying the threat of flooding and strong aftershocks.

But Zhou Hua, a Mianyang city official who is spokesman for the lake relief effort, told Reuters the Xinhua report was inaccurate.

"There is a virtual training exercise scheduled for tomorrow to test our contingency plan to move that many people," he said.

"But there is no public participation, and we see no reason at all to actually implement the plan at this stage."

The landslide-blocked river at Tangjiashan in southwest China is now the most pressing danger after an earthquake devastated the region on 12 May.