June 23, 2024

Rescuers in race against time as China landslide claims 20 lives

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The death toll from a landslide in China’s Yunnan province has reached 20, with 24 individuals still missing. The landslide, which occurred at 05:51 local time on Monday in Zhaotong, trapped dozens of people, prompting a swift response from rescue teams facing sub-zero temperatures.

Preliminary investigations point to a collapse in a steep cliff as the cause of the landslide, with the collapsed mass measuring approximately 100m in width, 60m in height, and an average thickness of around 6m, according to reports from state news agency Xinhua.

Efforts to locate the missing individuals are underway, with over 500 people evacuated from their homes and nearly 1,000 rescue workers dispatched to the site. President Xi Jinping has ordered an “all-out” rescue in the affected area, underscoring the urgency of the situation. Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Guoqing has reportedly taken charge, leading a group to guide rescue operations on the ground. Firefighter Li Shenglong conveyed that search and rescue efforts persisted through the night, emphasizing the challenging conditions faced by the rescue teams.

Local residents recount the horrifying experience, with one villager stating that the majority of the affected population comprises elderly individuals and children. Another resident described the landslide occurring while many were still asleep on Monday morning, likening the event to a substantial earthquake. Social media shared video clips depict rescuers navigating piles of rubble against the backdrop of snow-covered mountains, revealing the extent of the devastation, with personal belongings scattered among the collapsed structures.

This remote, mountainous region in southwest China has a history of susceptibility to landslides, with a similar incident claiming 18 lives in January 2013 in the same county. Adding to the challenges, a separate 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Wushi county in China’s Xinjiang at about 02:00 local time on Tuesday. While state broadcaster CCTV reported no casualties, some homes suffered damage, and certain areas experienced power supply disruptions. The unfolding situation underscores the resilience and dedication of the rescue teams working tirelessly in challenging conditions to bring relief to the affected communities.

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