Thursday, 13 August 2015

Over 60 Missing from NW China Landslide

More than 60 people were missing in China Wednesday after a landslide buried the living quarters of a mining company under one million cubic meters of earth, state media said.

The landslide covered 15 employee dormitories and three houses in Shanyang county in the northern province of Shaanxi shortly after midnight, an official at the county's propaganda office told AFP.

The state-run Xinhua news agency, quoting the provincial government, said late Wednesday that more than 60 people remain missing.

It said four people had been rescued and rushed to hospital. Another 10 at the site had avoided being trapped when the landslide struck, it added.

More than 1.3 million cubic meters of earth buried 15 dorms and three houses at around 12:30 a.m. on Wednesday at Wuzhou Mining Co. in the mountainous county of Shanyang. Earlier reports put the number missing at 40.

Ten people managed to escape by themselves.

Zhou Kunlin, one of the 10, said:"I woken up by people shouting about the danger."

Zhou said he and several colleagues ran out of the dorm and up the mountain. They were lucky to escape with just minor injuries from the falling stones.

"Those who ran down the mountain were buried by the landslide," he said.

"Many just had no time, as the landslide buried the area in mere minutes," he added.

More than 700 police, firefighters, mining rescuers and paramedics are at the scene. Residents living nearby have been evacuated.

Photos posted on news websites showed rescue workers in orange jumpsuits standing next to a pile of earth and rocks at least four times their size. Mechanical backhoes were atop the mound.

President Xi Jinping said he was following the rescue efforts closely and every effort should be made to prevent casualties and further disasters, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Rescue efforts, however, have been hampered by the unstable environment on the surrounding mountain slopes.

A work team sent by the State Council, China's cabinet, is en route to the site to oversee the search and rescue efforts.

Villagers believe excessive mining may be to blame as the region received no rain on Sunday.

The mine's operator was identified by Xinhua as Wuzhou mining company, which according to its parent company is mainly a vanadium producer.

Shanyang is a vanadium-rich county and several mines are located in the township where the landslide occurred. Residents have often voiced concern about the impact of mining activities on the environment.

Separately, an accident at a coal and gas mine on Tuesday night in the southwestern province of Guizhou killed 10 people, provincial work safety authorities said in a statement.

Rescue efforts were under way, the statement said Wednesday.

Xinhua reported Wednesday that 56 miners left the shaft safely after the accident, with five injured and three more still missing.

China -- the world's largest producer of coal -- is grappling to improve standards in the sector, where regulations are often flouted and corruption enables bosses to pursue profits at the cost of worker safety.

Accidents in Chinese coal mines killed 931 people last year, a top work safety official said in March.

The official number of mining fatalities is declining but some rights groups argue the actual figures are significantly higher due to under-reporting.

The country is also prone to landslides, often caused by floods but with lax management of industrial sites sometimes a factor.

In 2008, 277 people died in a mudslide in the northern province of Shanxi after an illegal mining waste reservoir burst its banks following heavy rain.

A total of 58 government and company officials were convicted over the disaster and sentenced to prison terms, some to life.

In 2013, a vast volume of rock crashed down a mountainside east of the Tibetan capital Lhasa, burying 83 people in a mineworkers' camp.

Thursday 13 August 2015


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