Over 110 missing after landslide engulfs mountain village in China

13 bodies pulled from the rubble as frantic search for survivors continues into the night; young couple and their baby managed to escape the wall of mud in northern Sichuan province

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 June, 2017, 12:13pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 June, 2017, 11:51am

Rescuers are digging through rubble with their bare hands and shovels in a frantic search for survivors after a landslide triggered by heavy rain engulfed a mountain village in the north of ­Sichuan on Saturday.

Thirteen bodies had been pulled from the disaster site by 8.30pm on Saturday, as rescuers continued their search into the night while heavy rains continued to fall, state broadcaster CCTV said.

The death toll is expected to climb, with at least 112 people from 62 households still missing after the landslide struck the village of Xinmo in Mao county, ­Diexi township, just before 6am.

Three villagers – Qiao Dashuai, his wife Xiao Chunyan and their 38-day-old baby – managed to ­escape to safety in time, while a fourth survivor was found but rescuers were still trying to get him out, Agence France-Presse reported officials as saying.

The entire village was buried when some 18 million cubic ­metres of soil and rock collapsed, Xinhua reported. Rocks rained down from as high as 1.6km across an area spanning 3km.

“For now we are using our hands and shovels to dig,” Wang Yongbo, a rescue team leader, told CCTV. He added that rescuers also had to contend with a second, smaller landslide as they worked.

A sign of life was found at about 3pm but rescuers later pulled the bodies of a couple from the area, CCTV ­reported. Wang said teams were using life detectors, climbing ropes and other simple tools they could carry as it was impossible to drive excavators into the area, where roads are blocked by rocks and boulders.

Nearly 2,000 rescuers and 29 rescue dogs as well as dozens of excavators have been dispatched to the scene in the Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture, about 170km north of provincial capital Chengdu. Telecoms networks in the area are believed to have been destroyed.

Tian Yanshan, a senior geological emergency response official with the Ministry of Land and Resources, said mountains in the area were less stable after the huge earthquake in 2008 that claimed some 80,000 lives. Mao county is located next to Wenchuan, the epicentre of that earthquake.

“The cause of the landslide is complicated. Heavy rains and an unstable mountain structure could have contributed,” Tian told CCTV, adding that human ­activities in the area, such as mining, could also be a factor.。

More rain is forecast for the coming days. The Ministry of Land and Resources on Saturday upgraded its geological disaster alert to the second highest after the landslide. Hunan, ­Hubei, Guizhou and Anhui provinces have all issued emergency alerts after recent heavy flooding. A landslide warning was also issued for Jin city, Hunan on Saturday.

President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang meanwhile issued a notice telling rescue teams to make every effort to minimise casualties.

Paramilitary police officer Chen Tiebo told CCTV that tourists could be among the missing. The village is located not far off a main road linking Chengdu with attractions such as Songpan old town and the Jiuzhaigou national park.

Diexi township is also on the tourist trail and was the epicentre of a 1933 earthquake that killed some 9,300 people.

The area is home to large communities of Tibetans and people of the Qiang ethnic minority.