More than 100 feared buried as landslide destroys village in southwest China

More than 100 people were 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 around 6 a.m. on Saturday morning, and more than 40 houses were buried, according to officials from the local propaganda department, state news agency Xinhua reported.

“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.”

Local police official Chen Tiebo told state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) that officials were still verifying the casualty numbers, but that he expected it could be between 100 and 200 people.

There were more people in the village than usual because students were home for the summer holiday, Chen said, 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. 

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A rescue operation is 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.

CCTV reported that around 500 rescuers were heading to the area. 

The landslide also blocked a 1.2-mile stretch of river, local officials told Xinhua.

“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.