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Landslide: 7 bodies recovered from debris

RESCUERS recovered seven bodies from the debris of Friday's landslide in southwest China yesterday. The search for 65 people still missing is continuing.

The seven bodies, five men and two women, have yet to be identified.

Rescuers carried out a controlled explosion at 11am yesterday to enable holes to be drilled to send air and food to 27 trapped miners who could still be alive after the massive landslide in Chongqing Municipality.

Three drilling machines were in operation and staff were setting up a fourth, said Ai Yang, a Chongqing government spokesman.

More than 400 experts, technicians and rescuers were taking part in the search and rescue operation, Ai said.

Eighty-five people whose homes were threatened by a barrier lake formed by the landslide will be relocated. Those in the affected area downstream of the lake have already been evacuated.

Entrances buried

The two entrances to the Jiwei Mountain mine were both buried under rocks when the landslide happened at around 3pm last Friday. It also buried an iron ore plant and 12 houses in Tiekuang Township in Wulong County, about 170 kilometers southeast of downtown Chongqing.

Eight people - three of them seriously injured - were rescued on Friday night.

But 21 residents, the 27 trapped miners and 18 miners working above ground, two telecommunications company workers and four passers-by were missing.

Using sniffer dogs and life detectors, rescuers found no signs of life under the debris on Saturday.

The 27 miners are about 150 to 200 meters below ground. The air and a small amount of water in the mine could support them for five to seven days, a spokesman at rescue headquarters said.

Early yesterday, rescuers completed a 28-kilometer access road for heavy machinery such as excavators and bulldozers.

'Still alive'

"The rock debris just covered the entrance, but there are water channels in the shaft. I believe my husband is still alive," said Chen Yuanmei, a woman at the scene.

Chen said she was tending her garden in Hongbao Village, 2 kilometers away, when she saw the rocks slide down, throwing up clouds of black dust.

She immediately called the mine authorities, but couldn't reach them.

The Chongqing Land, Resources and Housing Administration has issued an emergency circular urging districts and counties to organize professional teams to launch a thorough inspection of geological disaster-prone areas.

Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang visited the landslide site on Saturday, asking rescuers to try their best while avoiding secondary disasters.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs has earmarked 6 million yuan (US$870,000) to Wulong County for relief work.

The money would be mainly used as benefits for the victims' families and relocation of residents, Ai said.

A helicopter will be joining the rescue efforts today.


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