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Pope prays for victims of landslide tragedy in China

26 June 2017

Xinhua did not give an estimate of the number killed or injured, but it said the landslide had struck Xinmo village in Maoxian county, a remote mountainous area of north Sichuan close to the region of Tibet.

Thousands of rescuers with detection devices and dogs on Sunday were looking for signs of life amid the rubble of massive boulders that rained down on the village.

Rescuers continued to search through mounts of rock and rubble Sunday. A Maoxian county government official, Yang Baihui, said it was "because this is a Tibetan area, foreign media are not allowed to go in and interview people".

The bodies of fifteen people have so far been recovered, but many more are feared trapped beneath the rubble.

A couple and their two-month-old baby were the only survivors reported to have been found alive. "But he lived right in the middle of the slope where the landslide came down", she said, wiping away tears.

Geological experts have told the state-owned Xinhua news agency that chances of survival for the missing were slim.

The landslide from a high part of a mountain in Aba prefecture hit Xinmo village in Maoxian county at about 6 AM yesterday, blocking a two-km section of river and buried 1,600 meters of road.

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Emergency workers have been digging through earth and rocks for a second day, with rescue dogs scouring the debris for some 118 people who remain unaccounted for.

Despite the danger of more landslides, Xinhua reports, the search operation involves more than 3000 people.

The landslide, believed to have been caused by heavy rains, has blocked almost a mile-long stretch of road and part of a nearby river.

Chinese state news agency Xinhua previously reported that 15 people were confirmed dead and 120 people were missing.

Xu Zhiwen, the prefecture's deputy governor, said there had been 142 tourists visiting the village on Friday but none of them were buried.

"This is useless", villager Han Jianying, searching for missing family members, told Reuters. Qiao Dashuai, 26-year-old husband of the family, recalled that he and his wife woke up to cries of their one-month-old son at about 5.30 am.

Wang Yongbo, one of the local officials in charge of rescue efforts, described it as the biggest landslide in the region since the Wenchuan quake in 2008 - an 8.0 magnitude tremor that killed almost 70,000 people.