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North China mud-rock flow death toll rises to 254
Updated: 2008-09-14 08:36

XIANGFEN, Shanxi -- The death toll of a mud-rock flow in north China's Shanxi Province rose to 254 as of 8 p.m. Saturday, local authorities said on Saturday night.

Kang Haiyin, Communist Party committee chief of Xiangfen County, and Li Xuejun, the county head, have been suspended from duty.

The identities of 128 dead have been confirmed. A total of 1,047 have been displaced by the mud-rock flow.

The unlicensed mine is in Xiangfen County, Linfen City. The mud-rock flow around 8 a.m. Monday was triggered when the retaining wall of a mining reservoir containing tons of liquid iron-ore waste collapsed, inundating downstream villages and an outdoor market crowded with customers.

According to initial calculation, direct economic losses of the accident would hit 9.18 million yuan ($1.34 million).

More than 1,000 rescuers hunting for bodies have covered more than 90 percent of the inundated area, and it could take several more days to cover two channels where villagers believed more bodies were buried.

Rescuers have begun a new round of search along and inside a 300-meter long ditch by removing the fill of silt in it.

"This is the toughest phase of the ongoing rescue," said Lian Zhendong, chief of the rescue headquarters. "But we will do our utmost to finish the search in three to five days."

Power supply and telecommunications service at the site have been restored.