Landslide buries village in China

Rescuers searching the rubble for survivors yesterday after 62 homes in Xinmo village, in south-west China, were swallowed by boulders when the side of a mountain collapsed.
Rescuers searching the rubble for survivors yesterday after 62 homes in Xinmo village, in south-west China, were swallowed by boulders when the side of a mountain collapsed.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

At least 15 killed, more than 100 missing in disaster said to be triggered by heavy rain

BEIJING •At least 15 people were found dead and more than 100 remained missing hours after a massive landslide buried a mountain village in south-west China yesterday, as rescuers frantically scoured through rocks for survivors.

A couple and a baby were rescued and taken to hospital after 62 homes in Xinmo village were swallowed by boulders when the side of a mountain collapsed, according to the Maoxian, or Mao county, government.

The early morning landslide, which officials believe was triggered by heavy rain, blocked a 2km stretch of river and 1.6km of a road, according to state media.

Rescuers and local residents used ropes to move a boulder while dozens of others, aided by sniffer dogs, searched the rubble for survivors, according to videos posted online by the Maoxian government and state broadcaster CCTV.

Bulldozers and heavy diggers were also deployed to remove boulders, while villagers and soldiers lifted rocks with their bare hands. Rescuers used spotlights to continue the search after sunset.

Nearly 2,000 police, soldiers and civilians are involved in the rescue.

No signs of the village could be seen in aerial footage, which showed a grim and grey rock- strewn landscape covering the area where it once existed by a river.

A fourth survivor was spotted earlier in the day, but officials did not say whether he was pulled out of the rubble.

"It's the biggest landslide in this area since the Wenchuan earthquake," said Mr Wang Yongbo, one of the officials in charge of rescue efforts, referring to the disaster in a town in Sichuan that killed 87,000 people in 2008.

Local police captain Chen Tiebo said the heavy rain that hit the region in recent days had triggered the landslide. "It's a seismic area here. There's not a lot of vegetation," he said.

Trees help to absorb excess rain and prevent landslides.

Director of local weather service Tao Jian told CCTV the 2008 earthquake had "weakened the mountain" and even "a weak rain could provoke a geological catastrophe".

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

China's national weather observatory said more heavy rain was expected in parts of Sichuan and other south-western provinces.

Landslides are a frequent danger in rural and mountainous parts of China.

At least 12 people were killed in January when a landslide crushed a hotel in central Hubei province. In October, landslides battered eastern China in the wake of torrential rain brought by Typhoon Megi, causing widespread damage and killing at least eight people.

More than 70 were killed by a landslide in the southern commercial hub of Shenzhen in December 2015, caused by the improper storage of waste.

One of the deadliest landslides took place in 1991, when 216 were killed in south-western Yunnan province.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 25, 2017, with the headline 'Landslide buries village in China'. Print Edition | Subscribe