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Rescuers hunt for 1,300 missing in landslides

world Updated: Aug 09, 2010 11:02 IST

IANS
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Rescuers on Monday desperately searched for nearly 1,300 people missing after devastating landslides triggered by torrential rains hit northwest China's Gansu province. At least 127 people were killed and 45,000 people affected.

The landslides occurred at around 12 am on Sunday in Zhouqu county in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

The rescue headquarters in Zhouqu estimated that 1,294 people were missing. Earlier the provincial civil affairs department had put the figure of missing people at nearly 2,000, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

As many as 1,242 people were rescued from debris and 45,000 people have been evacuated, said the provincial civil affairs department.

"Torrential rains began to fall at around 10 pm on Saturday. Then there were mudslides and many people became trapped. Now sludge has become the biggest hindrance to rescue operations. It's too thick to walk or drive through," said Diemujiangteng, head of the county.

He Youxin, an officer with Chinese People's Armed Police Force, said: "Since excavators can't reach the site, we can only use spades and our hands to rescue the buried."

Floodwaters carrying mud and rocks submerged half of Chengguan town in the early hours on Sunday, said Mao Shengwu, head of the prefecture.

The Bailong river, which runs through the county, overflowed after being blocked by landslide and a large body of water inundated Chengguan township.

Water overflowed the banks of Bailong river as debris had blocked it. The river turned its course, inundating buildings along the riverbank.

The barrier lake is 2.6 km long, containing 2 million cubic meters of water, according to the provincial flood control department.

Personnel from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Monday used explosives to blast the barrier in the Bailong river at 8.18 a.m.

The first operation was successful. Armed police officers and PLA soldiers also used excavators to clear the blockage.

Later, two more controlled explosions were carried out.

The landslides and the overflowing river had caused considerable havoc early on Sunday.

The flow of mud and rocks razed an area of about 5 km in length and 500 meters in width in the county. Sludge as deep as two meters spread across some major roads in the county.

The provincial civil affairs department sent 3,900 tents, about 40,000 boxes of instant noodles and 31,300 boxes of bottled drinking water to the county.

The finance ministry announced on Sunday that it had allocated 500 million yuan ($73 million) in emergency aid to fund rescue efforts.

Zhouqu County covers 3,010 square km and has a population of 134,700, about 33 per cent of which are Tibetans.