International

China Landslide: Race Against Time To Save 93 Trapped Victims   

The 72-hour “golden period” to find any of the people under rubble alive expires on June 27, 2017.

Frantic efforts are underway in China’s south-western Sichuan Province to rescue 93 people from Xinmo village in Maoxian County, A’ba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, still trapped under rubble after a massive landslide covered the area at 6 am on Saturday, June 24, 2017. The disaster was caused by days of heavy rainfall and the lack of vegetation cover on the mountain range, officials said. Neighboring villagers have been evacuated to safe areas. 

Meanwhile, hope is fast running out for the people still trapped under an estimated 18 million cubic metres of earth and boulders (20 metres deep) that fell from a mountainside height of 1,600 metres. Officials say the 72-hour “golden period” to find trapped victims alive expires on Tuesday, June 27, 2017. After this, they warn, it will take a miracle to find any survivors. Some 62 homes were swallowed up by the debris that blocked a 2-km stretch of river, but 142 tourists in the area were found unhurt.

So far, only a couple and their month-old baby successfully fled the village when rocks began tumbling on homes. Some 10 corpses have been pulled out of the rubble while 15 villagers initially thought to be inside the mud were later discovered to have travelled out of the village on the day of the incident. Over 3,000 rescue workers and armed police using sniffer dogs and 150 heavy-duty earth-moving equipment are working tirelessly to save those under the mud. Rescue work was suspended on June 26, 2017 for some time after geological experts warned that they might be a secondary landslide at the disaster site.

President Xi Jinping on Saturday ordered authorities to make maximum efforts to reduce casualties and prevent secondary disasters. He instructed China's Cabinet to send a work team to the site. Local authorities were directed to take extra precautions against geological disasters in rain-affected areas. A 1933 landslide killed over 1,000 people in the Xinmo area. An earthquake struck most parts of China on May 12, 2008, killing 69,000 people, with 21,000 others missing. The epicentre was Wenchuan in Sichuan Province. Lixian County, a neighbour to A’ba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, which Cameroon Tribune visited last month, lost 110 people in the earthquake, with 7,322 homes damaged.

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