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Dozens buried, eight killed in southwest China landslide

By AFP - Jan 22,2024 - Last updated at Jan 22,2024

Chinese military personnel and rescue workers search for missing victims following a landslide in Liangshui village at Zhaotong, in southwestern China's Yunnan province on Monday (AFP photo)

BEIJING — Dozens of people were buried and eight confirmed killed when a landslide struck a remote and mountainous part of south-western China on Monday.

The pre-dawn landslide buried 18 homes and sparked the evacuation of more than 200 people when it struck in Zhenxiong County, Yunnan province, state media said.

Eight people are confirmed dead and rescuers have extracted four, according to a report by state broadcaster CCTV at around 5:30 pm (9:30 GMT), though the condition of the four was not immediately clear.

Two hundred rescue workers have been dispatched as well as dozens of fire engines and other equipment, CCTV said.

One local told the state-run Beijing News outlet that she was asleep when the disaster hit and that parts of her ceiling had fallen onto her head.

"At the time I thought it was an earthquake, but later I knew it was the hillslope collapsing," another resident told the outlet.

Both were quoted under pseudonyms.

Footage shared on social media by a local broadcaster showed emergency workers in orange jumpsuits and helmets forming ranks outside a fire station as snowflakes whirled through the air.

Other images showed rescuers picking through towering piles of collapsed masonry in which a few personal belongings could be seen.

Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered “all-out” rescue efforts, CCTV reported.

Xi “demanded that rescue forces are organised quickly... and efforts made to reduce casualties as far as possible,” the broadcaster reported him as saying.

He added that it was “necessary to properly handle the work of comforting the families of the deceased and resettling affected people”.

CCTV broadcast an image it said showed a firefighter working to pull a trapped villager from inside a home affected by the disaster.

Landslides are common in Yunnan, a far-flung and largely impoverished region of China where steep mountain ranges butt against the Himalayan plateau.

Monday’s disaster occurred in a rural area surrounded by towering peaks dusted with snow, state media footage showed.

Temperatures in Zhenxiong hovered just above freezing on Monday afternoon but were forecast to sink below zero in the evening, weather data showed.

There was no immediate official explanation for what may have caused the landslide.

Efforts to establish what happened are under way, Xinhua reported.

China has experienced a string of natural disasters in recent months, some following extreme weather events such as sudden, heavy downpours.

In September, rainstorms in the southern region of Guangxi triggered a mountain landslide that killed at least seven people, according to media reports.

Heavy rains sparked a similar disaster near the northern city of Xi’an in August, causing the deaths of more than 20 people.

And in June, a landslide in south-western Sichuan province, also remote and mountainous, killed 19 people.


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