More than 120 feared buried as landslide destroys village in southwest China

Emergency personnel and locals work at the site of a landslide in Xinmo village on Saturday. (Chinatopix via AP)

More than 120 people were missing and feared buried after a landslide caused by torrential rain destroyed a mountain village in a southwest China’s Sichuan province, state media reported Saturday.

The landslide hit the village of Xinmo in Maoxian county before 6 a.m. on Saturday morning, and 62 houses were buried, according to the Sichuan provincial government, state media news reported.

So far, only three survivors — a couple and their one-month-old baby — have been rescued from the village and taken to the local hospital.

“When I got to Xinmo village around 6 a.m., there was only one house in the entire village that was still visible,” Li Yuanjun, a local official told the Sichuan Daily newspaper. “Everything else was buried by rocks and mud.”

Zhang Liancheng, who lives in a nearby village, said the landslide buried eight of his family members. “It was raining and the house was shaking,” he told local newspaper Huaxi Metropolis Daily. “It was very foggy and I could only see something like a fire pushing towards Xinmo village.”

Local police official Chen Tiebo told state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) that there were more people in the village than usual because students were home for the summer holiday, adding that there is a possibility tourists could also have been staying there.

Maoxian county is largely inhabited by members of the small Qiang ethnic group, a matrilineal society known for building watchtowers and rope bridges in their mountainous lands, as well as for dancing and colorful costumes. Maoxian lies in Sichuan’s Aba prefecture, around 110 miles by road north of the provincial capital Chengdu.

“The whole village is buried, buried,” a man is heard saying on a video posted on the website of Sichuan Daily, as his camera pans across earth and rocks at the scene.

A rescue operation is already underway, CCTV said, showing an image of two bulldozers trying to shift the debris, while videos posted by state media showed soldiers in orange jackets clambering across a field of rocks, and police also on the scene.

Chinese President Xi Jinping called for an all-out rescue effort, and CCTV reported that around 500 rescuers were heading to the area.

“It’s all over, it’s all over,” a man can be heard saying over one video posted on social media. “The whole village is gone.”

Shirley Feng and Luna Lin contributed to this report.

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