Thousands join search for survivors of China landslide

An aerial view of rescuers searching for survivors at the site of a landslide in China's Zhejiang province. Only one person has been rescued so far in the disaster which struck last Friday. The death toll stands at 25, with 12 people missing.
An aerial view of rescuers searching for survivors at the site of a landslide in China's Zhejiang province. Only one person has been rescued so far in the disaster which struck last Friday. The death toll stands at 25, with 12 people missing.PHOTO: REUTERS

HANGZHOU • More than 2,000 rescuers are searching for survivors of a landslide in eastern China that has killed at least 25 people, state-run media has reported.

Yesterday, four more bodies were found, bringing the death toll to 25, with 12 others missing.

Only one person has been rescued so far after the landslide hit Lidong village of Yaxi township in Zhejiang province last Friday night. Four bodies are yet to be identified. The township is in Lishui city.

The avalanche of mud and rock, caused by several days of torrential rain, engulfed 27 homes with 38 people inside them, the China News Service said. The landslide also flooded 21 homes, cut off power, damaged electricity circuits and set some houses on fire.

"I saw the house in front of me was ablaze before it was buried by mud. I heard people screaming for help from inside. But I really couldn't get over to them," said a survivor, a 26-year-old man identified only by his surname Li.

The city government said in a press release that more than 2,300 rescuers, along with seven sniffer dogs, over 60 large machines and 50 aid vehicles have been mobilised for rescue operations.

About 200 people from 10 professional civil rescue teams have also rushed to the site from both Lishui and neighbouring cities to help.

Photos posted on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, showed rescue teams working through the night trying to pull people out.

But efforts were hampered by rain yesterday, which is expected to continue throughout the week.

The local meteorological department has forecast more rain for several days, warning of further hazards for the rescuers and a risk of further landslides, as well as crop damage.

Mr Mao Zirong, Lishui's standing deputy mayor, said the large amount of mud has formed a small barrier lake at the site, hampering rescue efforts.

Manual digging often replaces machine excavation as the search for survivors is still the priority, he explained.

Mr Yang Xiuqing, head of Liandu district, said a team of psychologists has been providing help to family members of the victims.

The local government has dispatched 52 teams comprising more than 620 people to investigate the site in case of any further disasters.

Staff with the Ministry of Land and Resources have also been dispatched from the capital Beijing to carry out inspections in the neighbouring mountain areas and prepare to organise evacuations.

More than 300 villagers have been relocated, and more than 400 volunteers are providing services at a resettlement camp.

XINHUA, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2015, with the headline 'Thousands join search for survivors of China landslide'. Print Edition | Subscribe