127 die, 2,000 missing in China landslides (Third Lead)

August 8th, 2010 - 8:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 8 (IANS) At least 127 people have died and 2,000 are missing in landslides triggered by rains in northwest China, officials said Sunday.
Seventy-six people were injured in Zhouqu county of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, while about 45,000 people were evacuated, Xinhua reported quoting the Gansu provincial civil affairs department.

Floodwaters carrying mud and rocks submerged half of the county, said Mao Shengwu, head of the prefecture. However, by noon the water level dropped by 40 cm.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao toured the county to study the situation.

Over 300 houses were buried in landslides. A primary school and government offices were damaged.

About 1,000 rescuers were mobilized to search for missing the people.

The mud-rock flow has leveled a five-kilometer-long and 500-meter-wide area in the county, the provincial government said on its website.

Sludge as thick as two meters has covered several major roads in the county, hindering the rescue work. The trapped residents were waiting for help atop buildings.

The Bailong river, which runs through the county, has spilled over, flooding the Chengguan township. Rains have lashed the county since Saturday, trigging landslides at many places.

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

His rescue team has saved 23 people and recovered 15 bodies. “It’s very hard to locate the people washed away by floods. It’s hard to say what their chances of survival are,” he said.

Over 600 soldiers were sent to the county for rescue work. More policemen, firefighters and soldiers from neighbouring Sichuan province and Beijing were expected to join the work.

Power supply and communication links were cut at many places.

Meanwhile, the government has rushed 1,800 tents, 20,000 boxes of instant noodles and 20,000 boxes of bottled drinking water to the landslide-hit county.

The Bailong river overflowed due to debris blocking its flow, as a result, it took a different course downstream, inundating buildings along the bank and forming a barrier lake.

Some 19,000 people in Shawan and Lianghekou townships near the lake, which is three kilometers-long and 100-meters-wide, had been evacuated. Efforts are now on to restore the the river flow.

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