Rescue crews were still hoping on Sunday to find survivors amid the rubble of a massive landslide in Sichuan province, despite a mounting death toll.
About 3,000 rescuers armed with detection devices and dogs were searching in an area that once held 62 homes and a hotel, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
“We won’t give up as long as there is a slim of chance,” the agency quoted an unidentified searcher as saying.
Emergency workers had found the bodies of 24 people by late Sunday morning, while more than 100 more people remained missing, according to the official microblog for the propaganda department of the village of Xinmo in Maoxian County, where the landslide occurred.
Rescuers found three members of one family five hours after the landslide at the village. Qiao Dashuai, 26, said he and his wife awoke to cries from their 1-month-old son at about 5:30 a.m.
“Just after we changed the diaper for the baby, we heard a big bang outside and the light went out,” said Qiao. “We felt that something bad was happening and immediately rushed to the door, but the door was blocked by mud and rocks.”
Images from the scene showed bulldozers and heavy diggers moving debris and boulders that swept into a valley, blocking a 2-kilometer (1.25-mile) section of river. Some 400 people from the police, military and fire services are reported to be taking part in the rescue efforts.
Chinese President Xi Jinping called on rescuers to “spare no effort” in their search for survivors.
A spokesperson for the Maoxian government said in a statement that emergency crews were responding ”to a first-class catastrophic geological disaster.”
“There are several tons of rock,” police captain Chen Tiebo told the state broadcaster CCTV.
The provincial government said on its website that an estimated 8 million cubic meters (282 million cubic feet) of earth and rock – equivalent to more than 3,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools – slid down the mountain.
Xinmo had about 40 homes and relied mainly on tourism. It remains unclear whether tourists were in the village when the mountainside collapsed.
The Sichuan province is also known to be prone to earthquakes. In 2008, nearly 70,000 people died when an 8.0 magnitude tremor hit Sichuan’s Wenchuan County.
The director of the local weather services, Tao Jian, told CCTV that the 2008 earthquake had “weakened the mountain” over Xinmo and that even “a weak rain can provoke a geological catastrophe.”
aw/sms (AP, Reuters, dpa)
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