All 18 children confirmed dead in Yunnan landslide

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 October, 2012, 10:25am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 October, 2012, 11:53am

All 18 school children who were buried when a landslide engulfed their primary school in remote and mountainous southwestern China have died, state media reported on Friday.

The landslide, triggered by sustained rains, buried the school and three farmhouses in Yunnan province on Thursday as children arrived to make up classes lost due to deadly earthquakes in the area last month that killed 81 people.

Rescuers pulled the body of the last missing child from the landslide debris early on Friday, China National Radio said in a report on its website.

The disaster in the village of Zhenhe is likely to raise questions over why the children had been brought back into the school, located in a deep mountain valley, when the rest of China was on a week-long national holiday.

But local officials have said the children needed to make up class time lost due to disruptions stemming from the September 7 earthquakes.

China has a highly competitive education system built around cramming for high-stress testing that determines entry into good schools later.

A local villager also was buried under the rubble and has yet to be found by rescuers, China National Radio said.

School safety is a sensitive issue after thousands of students died when an 8.0-magnitude tremor centred in Sichuan province rocked southwestern China in 2008.

Many schools collapsed in that quake, which killed more than 80,000 people.

This led to accusations that corner-cutting in construction projects and possibly corruption led to shoddy buildings, especially as many buildings near such schools held firm.