China Landslide Death Toll Up, Tops 1,100 (Updated)

Xinhua reports on the rising death toll in the northwestern China mudslide area:

The death toll from a massive rain-triggered mudslide in Zhouqu County in northwest China’s Gansu Province has risen to 702, with 1,042 others still missing, local civil affairs authorities told a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Some 1,243 people have been rescued and 42 of them were found seriously injured, said Tian Baozhong, head of the provincial civil affairs department.

Some 4,443 tents have reached Zhouqu County but most of them have not yet been set up due to a lack of open space, Tian said.

Officials are focusing on draining a lake to prevent further damage from flooding. Via the Guardian:

One government report last year called the Bailong river a “high-occurence disaster zone for landslides”.

Officials are focusing on the loose dam thrown down by the landslide.

Water levels behind the barrier fell slightly after controlled explosions created a channel to funnel some water off.

“Our county is surrounded by mountains, the barrier lake has clogged the river, and once water comes from upstream, we will be flooded,” said He Dong, a 36-year-old survivor of the mudslide. “This is a great danger to us.”

Update, 7:20 PM PST Could the disaster have been exacerbated by manmade causes? Oiwan Lam at Global Voices translates a tweet research campaign spearheaded by Tibetan blogger Woeser:

What happened to Zhouqu is a natural disaster or man-made disaster? Take a look at the map: according to common sense, landslide would resulted in barrier lake / dam. However, it takes time for the water to break the dam. Where were the media during that period of time? where was SARFT? where were all the phone lines and wireless communication? Where were all the micro-bloggers? The blocking of information flow had resulted in such kind of disaster!

See also a collection of photos by investigative reporter Wang Keqin, via China Geeks.

Update, 11:46 am PST:

See a video from The Telegraph on the rising death toll, which is now above 1,100.

And from Al Jazeera:

August 10, 2010 6:26 PM
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Categories: Environment, Society