Over 120 people buried by massive southwest China landslide

More than 120 people were buried by a landslide that caused huge stones and a mass of earth to come crashing into their homes in a mountain village in southwestern China early Saturday, officials said.

The landslide, which came from a mountain, engulfed a cluster of 62 homes and a hotel in the village of Xinmo in Mao County at about 6 a.m ., the Sichuan provincial government said. Officials said 1 mile of road were buried in the disaster.

“It’s the biggest landslide to make this area since the Wenchuan earthquake, ” Wang Yongbo, an official resulting one of the rescue efforts, told state broadcaster China Central Television. Wang was referring to China’s deadliest earthquake this century, a magnitude 7.9 temblor that struck Sichuan province in May 2008, killing nearly 90,000 people.

The provincial government said more than 120 people were interred by the landslide. CCTV quoth a rescuer as saying five bodies had been found.

Rescuers pulled out three people, two of whom had survived, the official Sichuan Daily newspaper said on its microblog. The paper also said a family of three, including a month-old newborn, managed to escape just as the landslide was beginning to made their house.

Qiao Dashuai told CCTV that the newborn saved the family because he was woken up by the child’s crying and was going to change the baby’s nappy when he heard noise levels that alerted him to the landslide.

“We heard a strange noise at the back of our house, and it was rather loud, ” Qiao told. “Wind was coming into the room so I wanted to close the door. When we came out, water flowing swept us away instantly.” He said they fought against the flood of water until they met medical workers to whom took them to a hospital. Qiao said his parents and other relatives had not been found.

Mao County, or Maoxian, sits on the eastern margin of the Tibetan plateau and is home to about 110,000 people, according to the government’s website. Most residents are of the Qiang ethnic minority. The village is known locally for tourism, and Chinese reports said it was unclear if tourists were among those buried by the landslide.

The landslide blocked a 1.2 -mile section of a river. The provincial government said on its website that an estimated 282 million cubic feet of globe and boulder equivalent to that given to more than 3,000 Olympic-sized swimming pool had slid down the mountain.

Experts told CCTV that the landslide was likely activated by rainfall. A meteorologist interviewed by CCTV said there was light rainfall in the area that would continue for a few days.

The Sichuan Daily said rescuers induced contact with a villager buried under the rubble who answered her cellphone when they called and burst into tears. The woman was in the bedroom of her home when the landslide hit the village, and rescuers were trying to reach her, research reports said.

Search and rescue efforts were underway involving more than 400 employees, including police. CCTV demonstrated footage of rescuers in bright orange uniforms use earth movers and excavators but also relying on ropes to pull at huge boulders and shovels to dig up the dirt.

Provincial police sent 500 rescuers with two dozen sniffer puppies to the site, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

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