Yunnan Landslide Kills 46 (Updated)

43 people are dead and 3 remain missing after a landslide in a remote part of Yunnan on Friday morning. (Update: Global Times reports that all 46 bodies have now been found: 27 adults and 19 children.) The disaster has decimated the 468-person village of Zhaojiagou: Yunnan Daily, via Al Jazeera English, reported that one family of seven was wiped out. From Hu Hongjiang at Global Times:

“I heard a sound like thunder, firecrackers or trucks dumping rocks at around 8 am. When I woke up and found some neighbors to follow the sound, we saw that the whole village had already been buried under the landslide,” Li Yongju, a villager in neighboring Zengjiazhai village, told the Global Times, adding that it had been snowing for 10 days.

The landslide hit the village around 8:20 am, burying the homes of 14 families. At least 46 people are believed to have been buried, among whom 19 were children.

Two injured people have been sent to a nearby hospital, and their conditions are stable after treatment.

“The landslide, which brought about several hundred thousand cubic meters of watery mud to the village, buried all of the houses there and created great difficulties for rescue efforts amid low temperatures,” said Sun Anfa, the leader of a local rescue team.

Xinhua reported on the rescue efforts, while Beijing Cream shared purported footage of the search for survivors:

Xi, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, said efforts must be made to resettle affected residents, prevent secondary disasters and successfully complete relief work and reconstruction so as to ensure stability.

[…] Snow continued. As of 11 p.m. Friday, rescuers were still searching for the missing, with the help of lamps and life detectors. They hoped to find any survivors despite bitter wind and low temperatures.

[…] “Many soldiers had even no time for their meals,” said Liu Guanneng, head of the fire fighting squad of Zhaotong City, at the scene.

[…] More than 1,000 soldiers, police, fire fighters and mine rescue workers had joined the search operation, said Feng Xuelan, secretary of the Zhenxiong county committee of the Communist Party of China.

At the South China Morning Post, Keith Zhai reported locals’ suspicions that heavy mining may have contributed to the disaster

The cause of the landslide remains unknown. Wu [Liang, a spokesman for the county government] said they occurred occasionally in the region, which was prone to earthquakes and heavy rains. But local residents said over-exploitation by coal miners caused soil erosion and destabilised hillsides.

[…] “The government should have monitored the geological hazards in the region long ago but they have failed to do so,” one resident said.

He said there was a major coal mine close to the buried village.

[…] County government official Xiong Changkai said the village had not been included in the county’s monitoring system because it had never experienced such landslides.

He also denied any link to over-exploitation by miners. “We have a precaution system for landslides, but this time it really was an accident,” Xiong said.

The affected Zhenxiong county borders Yiliang, the site of earthquakes and a subsequent landslide which killed at least 100 people last autumn.

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