As if the floods weren’t enough, this year’s torrential rains have caused the worst incident of landslides this year to happen in Gansu province. Official estimates released this morning put the death toll of the slides at 137, with 1,348 people still missing.
According to experts, the landslide, which occured in Zhouqu County early Sunday morning, had four causes. Zhouqu County’s rock was already soft and easily broken, but with the impact of the Wenchuan earthquake and the ongoing drought starting from last year, the geology of the area was already incredibly prone to being swept away. That happened on Saturday night, when rainfall reached over 90mm and lasted for 40 minutes.
As a result, roughly 1.8 million cubic meters of mud and debris flattened three villages in the area. In the worst hit, not a single structure was left intact.
Premier Wen Jiabao was at the site by the evening to urge an “all-out” effort to rescue survivors and restore electricity and traffic to the area, but hopes are fading for the 1300 or so still not found.
The chances seem especially harsh since excavators can’t reach the site through all the mud, according to police officers in the area.
“Since excavators can’t reach the site, we can only use spades and our hands to rescue the buried,” He Youxin, an officer with the Gannan branch of the Gansu Headquarters of Chinese People’s Armed Police Force, told the news agency.
His rescue team has saved 23 people and recovered 15 bodies, he said. But, “It’s very hard to locate the people washed away by floods. It’s hard to say what their chances of survival are,” he said.
In order to prevent more floods, troops have begun blasting through the landslide’s rubble that formed an impromptu dam blocking the Bailong river. Thousands of people, mostly Tibetans, living downstream from the blockage were also evacuated.
As for relief, China’s Red Cross Society said it had already donated 3.5 million RMB in funds and goods to Zhouqu, and will be giving another 1 million RMB for emergency supplies like food and drinking water. Meanwhile, Dalian Wanda Group had donated 10 million RMB and the Communist Youth Leage had pooled 5 million in funds. If you feel like donating, banking information is available on the China Red Cross site.