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Landslide in China Is Feared to Have Buried Over 140 People

The police and rescue workers arrived at the village and began searching buried ruins for survivors. There were reports that at least a few people had survived. State media outlets said a couple and their baby had been rescued. Still, many people appeared to be trapped in their homes.

Some residents stuck under the mud and rock used cellphones to call emergency lines, according to local news reports. One woman cried out from under the earth, Wang Yongbo, a firefighter, told Chinese television news.

“A woman shouted and dozens of troopers heard her and asked her questions,” Mr. Wang said. She “could only use a stone to tap in response,” he said.

Photo

The site of a landslide in Xinmo on Saturday. Credit He Qinghai/Xinhua, via Associated Press

Initial accounts from villagers and nearby residents said there had been rain in the area, but some said it was not very heavy and there were no signs of the impending landslide. The area was badly hit by an earthquake in 2008 that killed tens of thousands of people in Sichuan and nearby provinces.

“It came too suddenly,” the employee of a nearby hotel told The Paper, a Shanghai news site, of the landslide. “I didn’t sense any signs before it happened.”

Photographs from the scene indicated that a thinly vegetated side of a hill had toppled into a narrow valley, creating a wall of muddy earth and stones that covered a road and choked off a small river. Mao County, which includes Xinmo, announced a state of emergency and said rescuers were heading to the village.

By midmorning Saturday, about 500 rescuers and medical workers were converging on the area, one news report said. But officials said they were unsure how many people might have been buried by the landslide. China’s schools are on vacation, so there may have been more children in the village than usual, and the scenic area also attracts tourists.

One local police commander, Chen Tiebo, said there might have been as many as 200 people in the village, China Central Television said.

Western Sichuan Province, where the disaster hit, is a mountainous and remote part of the country, and the region has had landslides before. A landslide in the province in 2013 buried about 40 people; another in 2014 killed at least 11 people.

The earthquake in 2008 with an epicenter in Sichuan left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing and presumed dead after the tremors set off landslides and blocked rivers, which multiplied the risks from more slides. Investigators are likely to look at whether the quake left the slope above Xinmo Village vulnerable.

Rescuers said the latest slide had also created a potentially dangerous 1.2-mile-long blockage along the river near the buried village. Rain is forecast for the area in the coming days.

Source: NYT > World

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