Hopes fade for 93 missing in China landslide

Grief-stricken women in the village of Xinmo, Sichuan province, yesterday. Rescue workers and sniffer dogs worked through the night searching for missing people at the site of the landslide, which occurred in the early morning hours of last Saturday
Grief-stricken women in the village of Xinmo, Sichuan province, yesterday. Rescue workers and sniffer dogs worked through the night searching for missing people at the site of the landslide, which occurred in the early morning hours of last Saturday and was triggered by heavy rain, according to the authorities.PHOTO: REUTERS

Chances of people surviving under the rubble are slim, say geologists, after landslide buries village

MAO COUNTY (Sichuan) • Rescue workers in China pulled bodies out of piles of rock and mud yesterday as they searched for 93 people still missing a day after a landslide buried a mountain village.

A huge landslide crashed down on the village of Xinmo, in mountainous Sichuan province, as dawn broke last Saturday.

The authorities at the scene said yesterday that 10 bodies had been recovered, refuting a report by the Xinhua state news agency last Saturday that 15 people had been killed.

"This is useless," villager Han Jianying, searching for missing family members, told Reuters.

"Everyone's going to be in pieces anyway."

Heavy rain triggered the landslide, the authorities said. More light showers were likely but were not expected to affect the search, the state broadcaster China Central Television reported.

President Xi Jinping called for rescuers to "spare no effort" in their search for survivors and prevent more disasters.

  • Second-highest alert as rain pelts China

  • BEIJING • China's national observatory yesterday maintained an orange rainstorm alert for many parts of the country as heavy rains left dozens of people dead or missing.

    China has a four-tier colour- coded weather warning system, with red the most severe, followed by orange, yellow and blue.

    Heavy rain was expected to hit parts of Fujian, Hunan, Jiangxi, Yunnan and Zhejiang provinces as well as the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region yesterday and today.

    Rainfall in some places could reach up to 220mm in 24 hours. Strong gales or thunderstorms are also expected in many areas.

    The observatory warned the local authorities to take precautions against geological disasters such as floods or landslides.

    China has been experiencing weeks of heavy summer rains since the middle of this month.

    Downpours and disasters have left at least 17 dead and 10 missing in Guizhou, Hunan and Jiangxi provinces, the local authorities said yesterday.

    Heavy rains in Yongshun county in central Hunan province caused a house to collapse last Friday, burying two children, aged seven and five.

    More than 450,000 people suffered losses.

    The Hunan authorities on Friday closed all major tourist spots and warned tourists against camping or picnicking near rivers or on hillsides.

    XINHUA

Rescuers with lights on their helmets and sniffer dogs searched for people through the night as lamps illuminated the grey rubble, according to images on state media.

Around 3,000 workers with life-detection instruments were taking part in the search, Xinhua said. The landslide blocked a 2km stretch of river and 1.6km of a road.

Corn and potato farmer Yang Cangxin, who lived in a neighbouring village, said she lost contact with all her friends in Xinmo.

"Many of us came here to look at the scene. We were all crying, heartbroken.

"It's so hard to imagine something like that happening when you're sleeping quietly and peacefully in your own bed. It's just awful. They had no idea what was coming," said Ms Yang, who is in her 40s.

Xinmo residents were mostly farmers who grew corn, peppercorn and potatoes, she said, though some had opened guesthouses for tourists.

Mr Xu Zhiwen, the prefecture's deputy governor, said there were 142 tourists visiting the village last Friday but none of them were buried.

The authorities reduced the number of missing after 15 people were confirmed as safe, the Xinmo village propaganda department said on its microblog.

It was not clear if the 15 were rescued or had simply been away at the time of the disaster.

Geological experts said the chances of anyone surviving under the rubble were slim, Xinhua reported.

Mr Wu Youheng, who lives in a neighbouring village and rushed to help, said that the area was prone to landslides but the scale of last Saturday's disaster was unprecedented.

Mr Wu's wife, Ms Zhang Xiaohong, said they often sleep in other villages because of fear of landslides but cannot afford to move to a safer part of Mao county, where Xinmo is located.

Maoxian county is located on the Minjiang River, a major tributary of the Yangtze. The area is prone to earthquakes: A 7.5-magnitude earthquake in 1933 destroyed many villages in the area.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in offering his condolences, said that the United Nations was prepared to offer any support.

Sichuan province is prone to earthquakes. In 2008, a 8.0-magnitude tremor in central Sichuan's Wenchuan county killed nearly 70,000 people.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2017, with the headline 'Hopes fade for 93 missing in China landslide'. Print Edition | Subscribe