TAIYUAN -- The State Council, China's Cabinet, has sent a team to investigate the landslide that buried dozens of people in the northern Shanxi Province, but was initially played down by local authorities.
The landslide toppled a waste dump of a local iron mine and buried Sigou Village in Loufan County in the suburbs of the provincial capital Taiyuan on August 1.
Eleven dead bodies were found by August 16, and the official death toll ended there. Families complained at least 34 others had been trapped under more than 800,000 cubic meters of rocks and waste from the mine.
The emergency rescue headquarters have since dug 122,000 cubic meters of waste to search for more victims, but to no avail.
The exact number of people trapped remains unknown because most of them were migrants and were not registered at the local public security bureau, which means their disappearance might not be immediately reported.
The official website of the Loufan county government said Sigou village had 276 migrants as of November 2007, including 150 from the northwestern Gansu Province and 56 from the neighboring county of Jiaocheng.
They made about 100 yuan ($14 dollars) a day by collecting pieces of iron core from the waste dump and reselling them. The waste dump, within 200 meters from the village, belongs to Jianshan Iron Mine operated by Taiyuan Iron and Steel (Group) Company Ltd.
Such dumps should be at least 500 meters from residential areas and should have embankments or walls to contain dust or prevent landslides, according to Chinese law. The dump near Sigou, however, had none.
The Loufan county government's plan to relocate Sigou Village was dropped early this year because the villagers and the mine authorities could not agree on the compensation scheme and the planned new village did not have enough arable land to sustain the farmers.
Loufan county is about 97 kilometers from Taiyuan's city center.