Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has urged rescuers to race against time to search survivors after catastrophic mudslides hit a northwest China county and left nearly 1,300 people missing Sunday.
At least 127 people have been confirmed dead and 1,294 others were reported missing in rain-triggered mudslides in Zhouqu County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu Province, early Sunday morning.
"For those who were buried under the debris, now it's the most crucial time to save their lives," Wen stressed during a meeting held at the county government late Sunday night.
He said the search and rescue work must not be halted as long as the possibility for finding survivors still exists.
He instructed the rescuers to locate places where most people were buried or trapped and to clean the sludge as soon as possible.
Wen also demanded that traffic, power supply and telecommunication in the county should be resumed as soon as possible.
"And people who have been evacuated should be taken good care of," Wen stressed.
Wen and some officials with the State Council left Beijing Sunday noon and arrived at the mountain county at 4:35 p.m. He began inspecting the disaster areas soon after the arrival.
He walked through the mud and rocks and came to the worst-hit Sanyan valley, where a village of some 300 households was entirely submerged by the mudslides.
More than 680 villagers have been rescued.
Wen came to a rescue site where ten soldiers from PLA Lanzhou Military Area Command were busy pulling two persons trapped under debris. Wen told the trapped people to hold on and encouraged the hard working soldiers.
Wen later inspected a barrier lake on the Bailong River which runs through Zhouqu. The riverbed was raised by five meters because of the mudslides and parts of the county seat were submerged.
Wen asked the rescue team to properly deal with the barrier lake as soon as possible.
Heavy downpours triggered landslides and mud-rock flows in the mountain-locked county early Sunday morning. The county was also among one of the worst-hit areas during the devastating earthquake which mainly stuck neighboring Sichuan Province in May 2008.
China Earthquake Administration sent an 80-strong rescue team, equipped with sniff dogs and life-detecting devices, to Zhouqu late Sunday night to join rescue operations.
Zhouqu County covers 3,010 square km and has a population of 134,700, about 33 percent of which are Tibetans. It is located in the southeast part of the prefecture, the seat of which is about 276 km away from Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu.
(Xinhua News Agency August 8, 2010)