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State media: 46 dead after landslide in southwest China

Story highlights

  • A landslide hits Friday morning in southwest China
  • It buries 27 adults and 19 children, officials say
  • The disaster prompts a large-scale rescue and relief effort

Burrowing by hand and machines, Chinese soldiers and emergency crews toiled on steep, frigid slopes looking for the few missing after a devastating landslide killed dozens of villagers.

By early Saturday, word came that the tragedy had struck the mountain community in Gaopo.

The landslide killed 46 people in the southwest China village, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.

A powerful avalanche of mud and dirt had taken away 10% of village.

Twenty-seven adults, and 19 children.

Video from state-run CCTV showed what was once Gaopo, the small community in China's Yunnan Province. Some houses were crushed; others had ceased to exist entirely, except for stray bricks that made their way downhill.

Earlier, rescuers drenched in mud swarmed the scene, digging fervently with shovels, looking for signs of life.

Instead, they found shredded clothes, wallets and other evidence of those killed in the disaster.

"We pulled out several people, one of whom was breathing weakly," said Li Yongju, 50, a resident of the neighboring community of Zengjiazhai. "But after a while, he died."

Zhou Benju was born in the landslide hit area, then married a man from Zengjiazhai and moved there. A loud noise woke her, and later she learned the toll the event had taken on her family.

"In this disaster, ... my grandma, brother, uncle and my aunt's family members died," Zhou said, according to Xinhua.

The landslide struck Friday morning, triggered by rain and snow that had saturated the largely rocky area for 10 days, Li Lianju, deputy director of the Yunnan Land and Resources Department, told state media.

The Zhaojiagou area of Gaopo village had not experienced landslides before, according to Li.

But Friday morning, 46 people in the community of 468 people were buried, according to the local civil affairs bureau.

Two others suffered nonlife-threatening injuries, Xinhua reported.

The disaster prompted a massive search and rescue effort that included more than 20 excavators and front-end loaders.

And there were more than 1,000 soldiers, police, firefighters and mine rescuers participating in the effort, local officials said.