Wednesday 26 July 2017

93 missing as massive landslide obliterates tourist town

Heavy machinery is deployed to move debris during the search for victims at the site of a landslide in Maoxian County in southwestern China's Sichuan Province. Photo: AP
Heavy machinery is deployed to move debris during the search for victims at the site of a landslide in Maoxian County in southwestern China's Sichuan Province. Photo: AP

Didi Tang

Rescuers have found just 10 bodies but 93 people are still missing after a massive landslide buried a picturesque mountain village in southwestern China.

More than 2,500 rescuers with detection devices and dogs looked for signs of life amid the rubble of huge boulders that rained down on Xinmo village in Sichuan province at the weekend.

As of last night, only three people - a couple and their month-old baby - had been rescued from the disaster site.

Sitting on the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau in Aba prefecture's Mao County, Xinmo, has in recent years become a tourism destination for its picturesque scenery of homes in lush meadows tucked between steep and rugged mountains. But after the landslide, the village was reduced to a vast area of rubble.

As heavy machines removed debris and men scoured the rubble for survivors yesterday, relatives from nearby villages sobbed as they awaited news of their loved ones.

"It was as if strong winds were blowing by, or a big truck rumbled by," said Tang Hua, a 38-year-old woman from a nearby village. "The houses were shaking, as if there was an earthquake. We rushed out and saw massive smoke. With a thundering sound, the smoke suddenly lifted. We realised it was a landslide.

"As we ran for safety, we looked this way and saw the village flattened," she said.

Ms Tang has relatives in Xinmo, but she said little could be done at this point. "The whole village is done for," she said.

The landslide carried an estimated 18 million cubic metres of earth and rock - equivalent to more than 7,200 Olympic-sized swimming pools - when it slid down from steep mountains. Some of it fell from as high as 1.6km.

It buried 1.6km of road and blocked a 2km section of a river as it completely wiped away the village, which was once home to 46 families totalling more than 100 people.

Experts said the landslide was likely to have been triggered by rain.

Irish Independent

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