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25 dead, 19 missing at Guizhou landslides
Updated: 2004-12-05 09:46

Rescue operations at the site of a landslide in southwest China which left at least 25 dead and 19 missing were suspended for fear of new landslides.

The scene of a landslide in Yueqing in August 2004. A landslide struck struck in Zuojiaying village, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) west of the provincial capital Guiyang city killing at least 23 people. [AFP]

The bodies of 25 people have so far been recovered while another 19 people were still missing, Xinhua state news agency said citing rescue officials.

Officials have ruled out finding any of the buried victims alive after a huge mass of earth crashed down on a village in Guizhou province in the early hours of Friday.

"There's no hope that any of the victims buried will be found alive," said Guo Yan, head of the civil affairs bureau of Nayong county.

"We can only search during the daylight hours because at night it is too difficult to monitor if another landslide could occur."

The disaster struck at 3:00 am Friday in Zuojiaying village, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) west of the provincial capital Guiyang city.

Families of victims were grieving their losses Saturday, but emotions in the mountain village were stabilizing, he said.

"Some people have lost their entire families and others have lost several family members, so the sense of grief is deep," he said.

The huge mass of earth that crashed down on the houses was 500 meters (1,650 feet) long, 200 meters wide and three meters high, he said.

Large excavating machines and more than 1,000 rescuers were trying to dig through the mud, according to Xinhua, which said the operation was suspended later Saturday for fear of more slides.

Guo also said that it was still uncertain whether digging at some 20 mines in the village contributed to the cause of the accident, but all local mines had been shut down pending further investigations.

"Initial investigations have revealed that the landslide was largely a naturally caused geological disaster," Guo said.

"But we have issued orders stopping work at all the local coal mines and we are waiting for experts from the central government to come to certify the cause of the disaster.

"Only at that time will it be decided if the coal mines can resume work."

Chinese leaders including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have urged local governments and departments to go all out to rescue the victims of the landslide, sources with the central government said Saturday.

Local authorities and relevant central government departments are sparing no efforts in the rescue.

The area where the disaster occurred is made up mainly of fragile limestone, which is vulnerable to landslides, Xinhua said, citing Jiang Jianjun, a departmental director within the Ministry of Land and Resources.

Because of the danger of another subsidence, rescue workers have evacuated about 650 people away from their homes in the area.


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