18 children buried as landslide hits school

Nine pupils died and farmer is among 10 missing after buildings are crushed

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 October, 2012, 3:17am

Eighteen schoolchildren and a farmer were buried in a landslide in Yunnan province yesterday.

By last night, rescuers had pulled the bodies of nine victims from debris after a hillside collapsed on the Youfang primary school and a neighbouring farmhouse in Zhenghe village, Yiliang county, just as the children were arriving for classes at about 8am. State media reported that three farmers escaped, but 10 remain missing. Another person, who was injured, was in serious condition. It is not certain whether this person had been buried.

Both buildings were flattened by 160,000 tonnes of boulders and mud after days of heavy rain.

Yiliang county, located in a mountainous northeast corner of the province, was struck by two magnitude-5.6 earthquakes on September 7, killing 90 people and injuring more than 800.

"This tragedy has nothing to do with last month's earthquakes but rather days of constant rain on the steep slopes where these homes were built," said a Longhai government official who didn't want to be named.

"Local government departments and schools did not take days off during the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day holidays, as they were trying to make up for lost time following the earthquake. All local schools had only reopened by last Tuesday."

State broadcaster CCTV said more than 500 rescuers had been sent to the scene and had evacuated more than 800 people living downstream.

Yang Jianping, a captain of Yiliang's armed police, told CCTV that the rescue operation was extremely difficult. "Everything is buried under thick layers of soil and huge rocks," Yang said. "We can't see anything, but we haven't given up hope."