Hopes fade in China for 93 missing in landslide

Hopes fade in China for 93 missing in landslide
PHOTO: AFP

MAO COUNTY, China - Rescue workers in China pulled bodies out of piles of rock and mud on Sunday as they searched for 93 people missing a day after a landslide buried a mountain village, with some residents giving up hope of finding survivors.

A huge landslide crashed down on the village of Xinmo, in mountainous Sichuan province, as dawn broke on Saturday. Authorities at the scene said on Sunday 10 bodies had been confirmed recovered, refuting a report by the Xinhua state news agency on Saturday that 15 people had been confirmed killed.

"This is useless," villager Han Jianying, searching for missing family members, told Reuters. "Everyone's going to be in pieces anyway."

Heavy rain triggered the landslide, authorities said. More light showers were likely but were not expected to affect the search, the state broadcaster China Central Television reported. A couple and their two-month-old baby were the only survivors reported to have been found alive.

Authorities reduced the number of missing after 15 people were confirmed as safe, the Xinmo village propaganda department said on its microblog. It was not clear if the 15 had been rescued or had simply been away at the time of the disaster.

The rescue involved more than 3,000 people despite the danger of more landslides, Xinhua reported. Television showed pictures of industrial excavators removing rubble from a hillside dotted with workers in hard hats.

Geological experts said the chances of anyone surviving under the rubble were slim, Xinhua reported.

"We weren't able to pull anyone out alive," Wu Youheng who lives in a neighbouring village and rushed to help on Saturday, told Reuters.

"We pulled out two people but they were already dead. I think it's too late, they're unlikely to find anyone else alive." Wu said that the area was prone to landslides but the scale of Saturday's slide was unprecedented.

Wu's wife, Zhang Xiaohong, said they often sleep in other villages because of fear of landslides but could not afford to move to a safer part of Mao county, where Xinmo is located. The names of the missing were posted on government websites.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres in offering his condolences said in a statement that the United Nations was prepared to offer any support. Sichuan province is prone to earthquakes, including a 8.0 magnitude tremor in central Sichuan's Wenchuan county in 2008 that killed nearly 70,000 people.

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