Tibet Landslide Rescue Work Suspended

Rescue efforts have been halted at a mine near Lhasa due to fears that fresh landslides might add to the toll from Friday’s disaster. 36 bodies have been recovered, and little hope remains of any survivors among the 83 buried under two million cubic meters of debris averaging 30 meters deep. From Xinhua:

Rescue work was later suspended after geological experts found four cracks with lengths of more than 600 meters on the mountain top, posing risks of a subsequent landslide.

Rescuers were asked to retreat to the safe zone and wait for monitoring and evaluation from relevant departments.

More than 4,500 rescuers and 200 machines were working at the site to find the buried miners, said a spokesman with the rescue headquarters.Intermittent snow at the site, however, was hampering rescue efforts,

Another Xinhua report focused on the mine’s sole survivor, Zhao Linjiang, who was in Lhasa City when the landslide struck.

On Friday, he received a confusing call from his boss, who asked him to return immediately. On his way back to work, Zhao tried to call his relatives who also worked at the mine, but nobody answered.

When he got back to the mine, he found that it was no longer there. Instead, there was a mile-long pile of rocks in the place of the workers’ camp, and 83 workers, including his 23-year-old brother Zhao Malin and six other relatives, were nowhere to be found.

[…] Zhao said his phone rings about 40 to 50 times a day, mostly calls from the families of his co-worker relatives, who had once dreamt about bringing wealth to their families in the impoverished villages of Guizhou’s Xishui County.

Though life could be tough on the 4,600-meter-high plateau, the workers earned 8,000 yuan (1,288 U.S. dollars) to 9,000 yuan a month, roughly half the average annual income of people in their hometown, a victim’s family member from Guizhou told Xinhua.

The Hindu’s Ananth Krishnan surveyed online responses to the disaster:

While environmental groups and Tibetan exiled groups have long highlighted the adverse impact of mining project on the plateau’s ecosystem, Friday’s landslip also brought unusual — and unprecedented — criticism from Chinese bloggers, filmmakers and even singers. Television director Zhang Ronggui said he was “strongly opposed to the development of heavy industry and mineral resources in Tibet” in a widely forwarded post on Sunday on the Chinese Twitter equivalent Sina Weibo.

“It is the world’s highest and purest holy land, and I hope the government can leave a blue sky, clean water and white clouds for the next generation,” he wrote. His post, as of Sunday night, had been forwarded by more than 8,000 people.

Well-known singer, Zhang Yihe, in a message to her 339,000 fans, said: “I don’t understand why we have to dig up gold in areas that are above 4,000 metres. Why must we also build dams on rivers, including the Yarlung Zangbo? Why don’t we leave something for the next generation?” Other writers have also said the close relationships between local Communist Party officials and influential state-run companies have often resulted in environmental concerns and livelihood issues of local communities being ignored in mining projects, not only in Tibet but elsewhere in China.


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