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China landslides: Relief work picks up pace

world Updated: Aug 10, 2010 08:03 IST

PTI
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Relief operations picked up pace in Zhouqu County of northwest China's Gansu Province, which was hit by rain-triggered mudslides two days ago as the death toll mounted to 337 with 1,148 others listed still missing.

A total of 218 people have been treated for injuries and 41 people who were severely injured had been airlifted to the provincial capital Lanzhou, some 650 km from Zhouqu.

About 45,000 residents have been evacuated, as mudslides have destroyed more than 300 homes and damaged another 700.

Moreover, 3,000 homes have been flooded. Families of the deceased will be given a special pension -- 8,000 yuan (USD 1,181) for each death, Chen Jianhua, the ruling Communist party chief of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, which administers Zhouqu, told the media.

Torrential rain on Saturday night triggered an avalanche of sludge and debris to crash down on the county seat of Zhouqu early next morning, ripping houses off their foundations and tearing down six-storey buildings.

The mud-rock flow has levelled an area of about five km long, 300 meters wide and 5 meters deep in the county seat with more than two million cubic meters of mud and rocks, severely damaging power, telecommunication and water supply facilities, China's official news agency Xinhua reported.

Yueyuan village, which sits at the foot of craggy mountains, was reduced to a mess of yellow slush and debris with not a single structure left standing.

"It was not raining very heavily in the county seat on Saturday night. We didn't know that torrents were crashing down from the mountains," He Xinchao, a survivor, said.

"Before I realised what was happening, the house was gone." His 11-member family was reduced to two. "Just me and my son."

More than 10,000 troops, police and fire fighters are still racing against the clock in the search for survivors in the debris of the town flattened by mudslides.

Rescuers yesterday blasted debris damming the Bailong River in order to safely release potential flood waters.

The rescue efforts, however, could be affected as heavy rains are forecast for the next three days, Chen said.

Many survivors sat helplessly on the ground, watching the rescuers' work and praying for miracles. Some desperately dug with their bare hands.

The provincial health authorities have sent 15 psychological specialists to provide post-traumatic counselling to survivors who lost their family members in the disaster.

Relief materials, including tents food and water, are pouring into the disaster region.

Local authorities have sent more than 5,400 tents, 230 generators, 31,700 boxes of instant noodles, 18,300 boxes of bottled water and 21,400 cotton-padded quilts for the survivors.