More rain threatens China’s mudslide-hit region


Beijing : Rescuers Thursday scrambled to look for survivors in China’s Zhouqu county, where mudslides triggered by torrential downpour killed 1,117 people, as more heavy rains are expected to lash the region Friday.

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The National Meteorological Centre warned of more landslides in the coming days, with heavy rain of up to 90 mm expected to hit Friday. The provincial government has ordered evacuation of residents in areas prone to flooding and geological disasters.

Over 45,000 people have been affected in the landslides that occurred at midnight Sunday in the county in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. As many as 627 people are still missing.

The Chinese government has chalked out a three-stage resettlement programme for the thousands of people affected in the mudslides.

The first stage is resettling the affected people in temporary shelters, while the second stage is the stop-gap resettlement of people in houses of relatives, friends and neighbours as well as in houses provided by the government. The third stage would be reconstruction and moving of people into their new homes.

A total of 567 survivors have received primary medical treatment and 64 seriously injured in the disaster have been hospitalised, China Daily reported Thursday citing a provincial civil affairs bureau statement.

On Wednesday, a 50-year-old man was rescued after being trapped in knee-deep sludge inside a hotel for more than three days. He had survived on dry noodles, but was dehydrated.

Hope of finding more survivors in the debris also diminished after the first 72 hours, considered the optimum time for rescuing victims, officials said.

Jiao Yong, vice-minister of water resources, said extreme climatic conditions were behind the landslide in Zhouqu, but also warned of the dangers of illegal construction near rivers.

Zhouqu as a county is constantly affected by drought and receives less than 200 mm of rainfall on an average each year since the past few years, he said. Zhouqu covers 3,010 sq km and has a population of 134,700, about 33 percent of which are Tibetans.

The county experienced 97 mm of rainfall in just 40 minutes Saturday night, prior to the devastating landslide Sunday morning, he said.

Yang Yuqiong, a doctor at a local clinic, said residents are encouraged to cremate the bodies but many still want to carry them home for traditional burials.

Doctors in Zhouqu are worried that high summer temperatures will fuel disease outbreaks.

Zhang Guoxin, deputy director of the emergency office at the ministry of health, said epidemic prevention remains the priority for health authorities, adding that hospitals and clinics were being rebuilt in the disaster-hit area.