21 are feared killed in massive landslide

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 June, 2004, 12:00am

Three rescued after mud and mine waste engulf a village in Chongqing, but hopes of finding anyone else alive are fading

Twenty-one people are feared dead after a massive landslide engulfed a village in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing at the weekend.

Twenty-four people were buried alive in Wansheng under as much as 200,000 cubic metres of mud and coal-mine waste after days of heavy rain. Only three people were pulled out alive, Xinhua reported.

Five bodies were recovered in a rescue operation led by Chongqing Mayor Wang Hongju , but the report said rescuers held little hope of finding any more survivors.

'It is almost impossible that any of those missing have survived because the rubble slid down about 800 metres,' a rescuer was quoted as saying.

The three rescued people, two of them children, were out of danger and recovering in hospital.

Fourteen homes were buried on Saturday afternoon when the rain triggered the collapse of a hill and pile of mine waste, but 32 of the 56 residents were not at home at the time of the disaster. At least eight two-storey homes were destroyed by the landslide, which was 150 metres wide and 1km long, the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis News reported.

More than 100 villagers were evacuated by authorities, and special teams had been set up to help relocate the victims' families, the Xinhua report said.

About 500 police and a large number of villagers participated in the rescue efforts, the agency reported. However, the operation was hampered by the scale of the landslide, even though at least six bulldozers were used.

The mud was four metres thick at its deepest point.

Rescuers had been warned there could be more landslides as the hill was in danger of collapsing further, Xinhua said.

Wansheng is 110km southeast of the Chongqing city centre and borders Guizhou province.

Landslides, one of the most serious natural disasters to affect the mainland, cause heavy casualties and huge financial losses every year, with mountainous Chongqing being one of the worst-hit areas.

Last month, at least 14 Chongqing people were killed in two separate landslides in Fuling district and Xiushan county.

The Xiushan accident, which killed 11 people on May 13, was reportedly the largest landslide in Chongqing's history, involving 12 million cubic metres of rubble.

However, a smaller landslide three years ago in the rural district of Wulong caused the heaviest casualties, leaving more than 70 people dead.

Another 15 people lost their lives in landslides last month in Guizhou and Shaanxi .