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Thirty-one people dead and more missing after landslide, says Chinese state media

Authorities resumed search-and-rescue operations on Tuesday after suspending the work temporarily due to another landslide alert (CCTV via AP)
Authorities resumed search-and-rescue operations on Tuesday after suspending the work temporarily due to another landslide alert (CCTV via AP)

Thirty-one people were confirmed dead and several remained missing after a landslide in a remote, mountainous part of China’s southwestern province of Yunnan, the country’s state media has reported.

The disaster struck just before 6am on Monday in the village of Liangshui in the northeastern part of Yunnan.

Authorities said earlier on Tuesday that a total of 44 people were either missing or had been found dead.

Authorities resumed search-and-rescue operations on Tuesday after suspending the work temporarily due to another landslide alert.

Rescue workers search the site of a landslide in Liangshui village in Yunnan Province
Rescuers struggled with snow, icy roads and freezing temperatures that were forecast to persist for at least the next three days (Xinhua via AP)

More than 1,000 rescuers were working amid freezing temperatures and falling snow, according to the Ministry of Emergency Management. Two survivors were rescued on Monday.

State news agency Xinhua, citing a preliminary investigation by local experts, said the landslide was triggered by the collapse of a steep clifftop area, with the collapsed mass measuring around 100 metres (330 feet) wide, 60 metres (200 feet) in height, and about an average of six metres (20 feet) in thickness. It did not elaborate on what had caused the initial collapse.

Aerial photos posted by Xinhua showed the side of a heavily terraced mountain had spilled over several village homes.

Zhenxiong county lies about 1,400 miles (2,250km) southwest of Beijing, with altitudes ranging as high as 2,400 metres (7,900 feet).

Rescuers struggled with snow, icy roads and freezing temperatures that were forecast to persist for at least the next three days.

Rescue workers look on as excavators dig at the site of a landslide in Liangshui village
More than 1,000 rescuers were working amid freezing temperatures and falling snow, officials said (Yue Yuewei/Xinhua via AP)

Heavy snow has been falling in many parts of China, causing transportation chaos and endangering lives.

Last week, rescuers evacuated tourists from a remote skiing area in northwestern China where dozens of avalanches triggered by heavy snow had trapped more than 1,000 people for a week.

The avalanches blocked roads, stranding both tourists and residents in a village in Altay prefecture in the Xinjiang region, close to China’s border with Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan.

Landslides, often caused by rain or unsafe construction work, are not uncommon in China. At least 70 people were killed in landslides last year, including more than 50 at an open pit mine in China’s Inner Mongolia region.

In all, natural disasters in China left 691 people dead and missing last year, causing direct economic losses of about 345 billion yuan (£38 billion), according to the National Commission for Disaster Reduction and the Ministry of Emergency Management.

Rescue workers search the site of the landslide in Liangshui
Landslides, often caused by rain or unsafe construction work, are not uncommon in China (Xinhua via AP)

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Natural Resources enacted emergency response measures for geological disasters and sent a work team of experts to the site.

Also on Tuesday, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck a sparsely populated part of China’s western Xinjiang region, causing extensive damage and injuring six people in freezing cold weather, authorities said.

The tremors were felt hundreds of miles away. The quake was the latest in a series of seismic events and natural disasters to hit the country’s western regions.

Only last month, China’s deadliest earthquake in years struck the northwest in a remote region between Gansu and Qinghai provinces.

At least 149 people were killed in the magnitude 6.2 temblor that struck on December 18, reducing homes to rubble and triggering heavy mudslides that inundated two villages in Qinghai province.

Nearly 1,000 people were injured and more than 14,000 homes were destroyed.