ZHOUQU, Gansu - 127 people have been confirmed dead, 76 others injured and 2,000 missing as of 4 pm on Sunday in landslides triggered by torrential rains in Zhouqu County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Northwest China's Gansu Province, said local authorities.
Over 300 houses collapsed in the landslides and about 45,000 people have been evacuated, according to a statement from the provincial civil affairs department.
Rescuers clear up the stones and mud on a road after a landslide destroyed a village of more than 300 families in Zhouqu County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province, August 8, 2010. [Photo/Xinhua]
As of noon, more than 680 residents, had been rescued by local residents. And the water level in the county seat of Chengguan Township had declined by 40 cm, after floodwaters carrying mud and rocks submerged half the town in the small hours on Sunday, said Mao Shengwu, head of the prefecture.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrived at Zhouqu County around 4:30 pm.
Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao instructed the government of Gansu Province and other related departments to spare no efforts to save lives. Wen arrived at Zhouqu County at 4:35 pm.
The China National Committee for Disaster Reduction, the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters and the Ministry of Civil Affairs have lifted the national disaster relief response level to grade II, the second highest level.
More than 300 homes in Yueyuan Village in the county had been buried. The number of casualties in village were still not known, Mao said.
The mud-rock flow has leveled an area about 5 km long and 500 meters wide in the county seat, according to a statement posted on the website of the provincial government.
Local residents join soldiers in an effort of searching for survivors in a devastated building after a landslide in Zhouqu County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province, August 8, 2010. 28 trapped people had been rescued as of 19:30 on Sunday. [Photo/Xinhua]
The local rescue headquarters has also organized 1,000 more rescuers to search for the missing people in the area.
Sludge as thick as two meters was spread across some major roads in the county. Many trapped residents were waiting for rescuers atop buildings, said a statement from the general office of the provincial committee of the Communist Party of China.
A primary school and some governmental offices in the county were damaged, said the statement.
The Bailong River, which runs through the county seat, has overflowed and a large body of slow moving water had engulfed Chengguan Township.
"Torrential rains began to fall at around 10 pm Saturday. Then there were landslides and many people were trapped. Now sludge has become the biggest hinderance to rescue operations. It's too thick to walk or drive through," said Diemujiangteng, head of the county.
"Since excavators can't reach the site, we can only use spades and our hands to rescue the buried." said He Youxin, an officer with the Gannan branch of the Gansu Headquarters of Chinese People's Armed Police Force.
His rescue team has saved 23 people and recovered 15 bodies. But, "It's very hard to locate the people washed away by floods. It's hard to say what their chances of survival are," he said.
More than 600 soldiers sent by the PLA Lanzhou Military Area Command arrived at the county. "We haven't found any trapped people," said Pu Junli, head of a 60-strong advance force.
More armed policemen, fire fighters and PLA soldiers to help with the rescue are bringing heavy machines from Gansu, neighboring Sichuan Province and Beijing.
Small mud-rock flows still were occurring in the county, according to a report from a 10-strong rescue team sent by the fire department of Sichuan.
A Xinhua reporter learned from the Gansu Electric Power Corporation that two thirds of county's power was out. And some communications links were also down because of the electricity cuts.
The corporation has sent more than 40 people with electricity generators to the site. But they were blocked about 68 km away from the county seat by landslides covering the roads.
The provincial civil affairs department has sent 1,800 tents, 20,000 boxes of instant noodles and 20,000 boxes of bottled drinking water to the county.
This photo taken by a cell phone shows soldiers remove mud and stones in search of victims' bodies survivors after a landslide destroyed a village of more than 300 families in Zhouqu County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province, August 8, 2010. [Photo/Xinhua]