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Hope fades for 51 missing in mudslide
( 2003-07-15 06:41) (China Daily)

All 71 people trapped in a mountainous village by a fatal mudslide in Sichuan Province late last week had been safely located by 2 am yesterday.

Residents transfer personal belongings to a safe place.
However, hope is fading for another 51 people who are still missing.

A wall of mud and rock hit the scenic Badi Township in the southwest of the nation on Friday night.

"No new bodies have been found and as times go on we fear we will not see any more survivors from the fatal crush of rocks in the flow,'' an official with the Disaster Relief Office of the Ganzi Tibetan Ethnic Minority Autonomous Prefecture, who would only disclose himself as Wu, told China Daily yesterday.

If those missing are confirmed dead, the mudslide will have claimed more lives than any other in the nation's history, Wu said.

All of the missing people were said to have been participating in a village campfire party in honour of four tourists from East China's Shanghai.

Despite the gloom, the local government is continuing its rescue efforts. Hundreds of officials, army officers, police and volunteers are still searching the banks of the Jinchuan River.

So far, only one female tourist from Shanghai has been confirmed dead. Her body was found in the lower reaches of the river on Sunday.

Since the huge amount of mud and rocks brought down by heavy floods have cut off most of the roads leading to the site, outside rescuers were forced to spend extra time marching on foot and did not reach the site until late on Sunday.

"Although there are mud-rock flows every year in Sichuan, we have not heard of such a heavy loss of life,'' said Ma Lin, an official with the Sichuan Provincial Red Cross Society, which kicked off a campaign yesterday to draw in donations for the cause.

Preliminary governmental estimations hold that the economic loss will also be heavy, as the homes and fields of as many as 5,000 local people were damaged to various degrees.

According to Ma, the provincial red cross society's first batch of disaster relief materials, including tents, cotton wadding and quilts, have already reached the township.

Local officials are racing against time to resettle the newly rescued as well as others living in mudslide-prone areas, said Wu, as more rain is predicted in the next few days.

Constant rain has been blamed as a trigger for the incident.

"For many Chinese regions, especially those in mountainous areas
A bicycle wheel was damaged by the raging mudslide. [newsphoto.com.cn]
or those with poor vegetation, July and August are especially dangerous with concentrated and obviously increased rainfall, which might cause severe mud flows,'' said Jiang Jianjun, director of the Geological Environment Department under the Ministry of Land and Resources.

In addition to the Badi mudslide, Sichuan Province has suffered four similar major incidents since the end of May, with the latest taking place on Sunday morning, in which six workers fixing a road in the Province's Fengdu County were buried and killed.

Moreover, Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality and Central China's Hubei Province have also reported fatal mudslides, the most severe of which happened early on Monday in Hubei's Zigui County, claiming four lives and leaving 20 people missing.

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