Beijing: Hundreds of military personnel and workers raced against time to rescue large number of people trapped under a mountain of mud and rocks triggered by landslides in China`s Zhouqu County in which 127 people have been killed so far.
Heavy downpours on Saturday triggered landslides and mud-rock flows in Zhouqu County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province.
The rescue headquarters in Zhouqu estimated that 1,294 people are missing. Earlier, the provincial civil affairs department put the figure at nearly 2,000. Another 117 were injured, including 29 in serious condition.
In addition, 1,242 have been rescued from debris or brought to safety from places such as tops of buildings, official Xinhua news agency reported.
About 45,000 people have been evacuated, according to a statement from the provincial civil affairs department.
The water-level in the county seat of Chengguan Township had declined by 40 cm, after floodwaters carrying mud and rocks submerged half the town in the early hours yesterday, Mao Shengwu, head of the prefecture, said.
Premier Wen Jiabao rushed to the place of disaster and visited the place.
China National Committee for Disaster Reduction, State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters and Ministry of Civil Affairs have lifted national disaster relief response level to grade II, the second highest level.
Bailong river, which runs through the county, overflowed after being blocked by landslide and a large body of slow-moving water had engulfed Chengguan Township.
More than 300 homes in Yueyuan village had been buried, with the number of casualties still unknown, Mao said. The mud-rock flow has levelled an area of about 5 km long and 500 meters wide in the county seat with about 1.8 million cubic meters of mud and rocks. More than 20,000 people have been affected.
Sludge as deep as two metres spread across some major roads in the county, driving many trapped residents atop buildings.
"Torrential rains began to fall at around 10 pm on Saturday. Then there were mudslides and many people became trapped. Now sludge has become the biggest hindrance to rescue operations. It`s too thick to walk or drive through," Diemujiangteng, head of the county, said.
"Since excavators can`t reach the site, we can only use spades and our hands to rescue the buried," said He Youxin, an officer with the Gannan branch of the Gansu Headquarters of Chinese People`s Armed Police Force.
He`s rescue team has saved 23 people and recovered 15 bodies. "It`s very hard to locate the people washed away by floods. It`s hard to say what their chances of survival are," the officer said.
The People`s Liberation Army (PLA) Lanzhou Military Area Command has sent 2,560 soldiers to the landslide-hit region.
The Ministry of Public Security has sent 1,780 policemen and fire fighters with life detectors and rubber rafts to join the rescue operation. Hundreds of medical staff also have been sent to the region.
Small mud-rock flows were still continuing in the county, according to a report from a 10-strong rescue team sent by the fire department of Sichuan.
Rescue operations, however, could be further complicated as rains were forecast for the coming five days.
Two-thirds of electricity supply was out and some communications links were also down because of power cuts. Power supplies in some parts of Zhouqu, including temporary settlement centre, hospitals, two middle schools and communications base stations, were resumed last evening, the report said.
Roads in the outskirts of Zhouqu County had reopened after they were blocked by the mudslides.
The civil affairs department has sent 3,900 tents, about 40,000 boxes of instant noodles and 31,300 boxes of bottled drinking water to the county.
The Ministry of Finance has allocated CNY 500 million (USD 73 million) in emergency aid to fund the relief work.