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China races to find landslide survivors in sub-zero temperatures | Environment News

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At least nine people have been confirmed dead in the pre-dawn disaster in southwestern Yunnan, with dozens still missing.

Rescuers in China have stepped up efforts to find dozens of people who were buried in a landslide in southwestern Yunnan.

The landslide struck two villages in mountainous Zhengxiong County in the early hours of Monday morning when many people were asleep, burying 18 homes and at least 47 people.

At least nine people had been found dead, according to state broadcaster CCTV, while two were pulled from the rubble and taken to hospital.

“The mountain just collapsed, dozens were buried,” a witness, named Gu, told state-owned television.

He said four of his relatives were among those beneath the rubble.

“They were all sleeping in their homes,” he said.

State news agency Xinhua said rescue workers were in a “race against time” to find those missing after a night of sub-zero temperatures.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered “all-out” rescue efforts.

The agency quoted Wu Junyao, the director of the natural resources and planning bureau of Zhaotong, which includes the affected villages, as saying the disaster “resulted from a collapse in the steep cliff area atop the slope”.

Hundreds of rescue workers including soldiers have been sent to the area, which is known for its steep rugged mountains that are covered with snow in winter. The two affected villages were built towards the foot of the mountains and more than 500 residents were evacuated after the disaster.

State media showed rescuers climbing over concrete blocks and collapsed roofs dusted with snow to find survivors.

Luo Dongmei was sleeping when the landslide struck.

“I was asleep, but my brother knocked on the door and woke me up. They said there was a landslide and the bed was shaking, so they rushed upstairs and woke us up,” 35-year-old Luo told the Associated Press news agency.

Luo, her husband and their three children were evacuated to a school along with many other residents.

Luo said she had been unable to contact her sister and aunt, who lived closer to the site of the landslide. “The only thing I can do is to wait,” she said.

Rescuers search through the remains of village houses to try and find survivors [AFP]

Yunnan is among several provinces in China currently experiencing bitterly cold temperatures, according to the National Meteorological Centre.

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 the Xinjiang region, close to China’s border with Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan.

There was no immediate official explanation for what might have caused Monday’s landslide. Zhengxiong County lies about 2,250km (1,400 miles) southwest of Beijing, with altitudes ranging as high as 2,400 metres (7,900 feet).

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 the Inner Mongolia region.

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