China: Hopes fade for survivors after deadly landslide hits village

Authorities say 25 people dead with 93 still missing in Xinmo, Sichuan province

Rescuers search for survivors as a landslide sweeps over a village in southwest China, leaving over 140 people buried in the debris. Video: CCTV


One day after a deadly landslide struck a village in southwest China’s Sichuan province, hopes were fading for scores of people still missing after a mountainside collapsed on the remote village.

Twenty-five people have been confirmed dead so far after another 10 bodies were recovered by early afternoon on Sunday in Xinmo village in Maoxian county.

Another 15 people had been confirmed alive directly or through relatives, and 93 were still missing, with hopes fading of finding survivors, according to the local government’s microblog.

State media reported how more than 3,000 rescuers with life detection equipment and dogs were racing against time to save those trapped after the landslide swept away 62 homes in Xinmo at 6am on Saturday.

Heavy rain caused an estimated 18 million cubic metres of earth to fall 1,600 metres from a high point on the mountain and engulf half of Xinmo on the valley floor below.

For one couple, getting up to change their infant son’s nappy may have saved their lives.

Xiao Yanchun and her husband, Qiao Dashuai, both 26, heard the 38-day old infant crying and went to check on his nappy when the landslide struck and they crawled to safety in the face of the deluge.

“Just after we changed the nappy for the baby, we heard a big bang outside and the light went out,” Mr Qiao told the Xinhua news agency.

‘Something bad’

“We felt that something bad was happening and immediately rushed to the door, but the door was blocked by mud and rocks.”

A three-year-old child from the family remains buried.

The region where the landslide occurred is in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture, which is home to many ethnic Tibetans and Qiang people.

In total, 142 tourists were visiting the area and they are all alive, said Xu Zhiwen, executive deputy governor of the prefecture.

The landslide blocked a 2km stretch of river and buried 1.6 km of road along the Minjiang River, a major tributary of the upper stream of the Yangtze River.

News coverage on the state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) showed excavators and rescuers removing large quantities of rubble from the hillside.

“I arrived at the site at 7.30am and found that the whole area was buried by the landslide,” said He Dajun, a worker with Maoxian county power company.

According to the local weather department, more rainfall is expected in the next three days, which could play havoc with rescue efforts.

The area has been hit by numerous seismic events in recent years. It is 150km away from the epicentre of the giant tremor that devastated Sichuan in 2008, leaving over 80,000 dead or missing. In 1933, a 7.5-magnitude earthquake left many villages at Diexi submerged.

President Xi Jinping urged rescuers to make “all-out efforts” to search and rescue people while Premier Li Keqiang gave instructions to the rescue work, state media reported.