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Landslide: 74 missing as search continues

AUTHORITIES have confirmed that 74 people are missing after a landslide in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.

They are 21 residents, 47 workers at the iron ore mine where the landslide occurred, two telecom company workers and four passers-by, government spokesman Ai Yang told a news briefing yesterday.

Eight people are in hospital after the incident, which happened about 3pm on Friday at an iron ore mine in Jiwei Mountain in Tiekuang Township, Wulong County, about 170 kilometers southeast of Chongqing's downtown.

Ai said 27 miners were working underground when the landslide occurred.

Heavy machinery, including mechanical diggers and shovel loaders, had been brought in to aid rescue efforts after the communications authorities helped open the roads.

Ai said rescuers were preparing to use dynamite to remove rubble burying the opening of the mine in bid to rescue those trapped.

The debris covered an area 600 meters long by 300 meters wide in a valley on Jiwei Mountain after the landslide, witnesses said.

Chongqing land and resources authorities said that about 1.5 million cubic meters of Jiwei Mountain slumped 600 meters. It filled a valley where the Wujiang, a tributary of the Yangtze River, flows.

An investigation team said the debris, estimated at more than 3.5 million cubic meters, had blocked the river flow and could form a barrier lake if it rained.

Liu Yi, chief weatherman with the Chongqing Meteorological Station, told the news briefing that rain was forecast for this morning, with heavier falls of about 40-60 millimeters expected tomorrow.

Ai said rescuers were rushing to remove the debris under the guidance of geological experts, and hoped to reduce the danger before the rain came.

According to the rescue headquarters, people buried in the debris had almost no chance of survival, but there was hope for the 27 trapped in the mine.

Seven people were pulled from the debris on Friday evening, and three are in a critical condition, said Qu Qian, director of the Chongqing Municipal Health Bureau.

Another man was injured after he joined the rescue work. He was also taken to hospital.

Qu said 27 ambulances and 91 medical workers were at the site.

The landslide cut off power and communications in many parts of the town.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have ordered local authorities to spare no effort to save buried or trapped people. Caution must be taken to avoid loss of life during the rescue work, the two leaders said.

Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang arrived at the site at 5am yesterday to oversee rescue efforts.


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