1,300 missing in China after floods and landslides

By Bill Smith

Beijing (dpa) – Soldiers were searching the rubble of collapsed

buildings for some 1,300 missing people on Monday after floods and

landslides hit north-western China’s Gansu province.

   Premier Wen Jiabao travelled to Gansu’s Zhouqu county on Sunday to

oversee the rescue work in the mainly Tibetan area, where at least

127 people died early Sunday.

   “For those who were buried under the debris, now it’s the most

crucial time to save their lives,” state media quoted Wen as telling

a meeting of rescue officials late Sunday night.

   Other troops were using excavators and explosives to demolish a

barrier of debris blocking the Bailong river above Zhouqu in the hope

of averting more floods, the official Xinhua news agency said.

   The barrier had caused a lake to form on Sunday, which later

overflowed and sent “massive waves of water crashing down” a mountain

into villages and the Zhouqu county seat, where several multi-storey

buildings were destroyed or partially buried in mud.

   An initial head count recorded 1,294 people missing, while at

least 88 people were injured, reports said.

   The flood carried an estimated 1.8 million cubic metres of mud and

debris onto three villages in the Bailong valley, which covers about

one-third of the county’s total area.

   Every building in the worst-hit village of Yueyuan was destroyed

by a mudslide, the agency said.

   “Hundreds of families were buried or washed away. The casualties

and number of missing may still go up,” it quoted one villager as


   Soldiers were searching the mud and debris in Yueyuan with

shovels, hoes or by hand, with an “air of desperation” in the village

on Monday, the agency said.

   The county hospital was treating more than 70 injured people,

including at least 30 in critical condition.

   But medical treatment was hampered by a staff shortage because at

least 10 doctors were missing after the mudslide, it said.

   Summer floods and landslides have hit many other areas of China

since April, killing more than 1,500 people with hundreds still

listed as missing.