Death toll from NW China mudslide rises to 702

Updated: 2010-08-10 18:59
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Death toll from NW China mudslide rises to 702
Villagers from Yuanyuan village carry instant noodles and bottled water back home on Aug 10, two days after the rain-triggered mudslide hit Zhouqu county, Gannan Tibetan autonomous prefecture in Northwest China's Gansu province.[Photo/Xinhua] 

ZHOUQU, Gansu - The death toll from a massive rain-triggered mudslide in Zhouqu County in northwest China's Gansu Province has risen to 702, with 1,042 others still missing, local civil affairs authorities told a news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Some 1,243 people have been rescued and 42 of them were found seriously injured, said Tian Baozhong, head of the provincial civil affairs department.

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Some 4,443 tents have reached Zhouqu County but most of them have not yet been set up due to a lack of open space, Tian said.

About 16,000 more tents from the Ministry of Civil Affairs are still in Lanzhou, the provincial capital, Tian said.

The mudslide hit the county in Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Gannan early Sunday, destroying hundreds of homes.

Some 703 other buildings have become vulnerable after being soaked for days in the floodwaters.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) had dispatched 5,300 soldiers, 150 vehicles, four helicopters and 20 speed boats to Zhouqu, said Du Kangzhan, an publicity official at the PLA's Lanzhou Area Command.

The mountainous terrain in the county, however, has hampered the disaster relief operations. The local rescue headquarters could only establish two settlement centers on the playgrounds of two middle schools.

A Xinhua reporter saw only 100 tents pitched in the settlement centers.

"We have adequate tents, but insufficient space to pitch them," said Zhang Hongdong, a worker with the county's Red Cross Society.

Most people affected by the disaster sought shelter with their relatives and friends in nearby regions, Zhang added.

The government in Longnan City, located in the lower reaches of the Bailong River, has evacuated 21,500 residents to safety as a precaution in case of additional mudslides, said Zhang Li, deputy secretary-general of the city's government.

Longzhou Hotel is the county's only hotel that remains intact after the mudslide. Its 140 beds are fully occupied.

"Most of our troops are based outside the county," an unnamed official with the PLA General Logistics Department told Xinhua.

Although most volunteers and reporters can only huddle up in their cars or stay with local households at night, foreign reporters are still rushing to the site.

As of 1:30 pm Tuesday, 22 reporters from nine foreign news outlets had registered to cover the disaster in the county, said a spokesman with the press center of the local rescue headquarters.

The center will continue to accept applications for interview, said the spokesman.

In the center, reporters can surf the Internet and take rests, with adequate supplies of drinking water available, he said.