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Latest News
UPDATED: August-11-2010
Death Toll from Zhouqu Mudslides Rises to 702

The death toll from a massive rain-triggered mudslide in Zhouqu County in northwest China's Gansu Province has risen to 702, with 1,042 others still missing, local civil affairs authorities said Tuesday afternoon.

Some 1,243 people have been rescued, Tian Baozhong, head of the provincial civil affairs department, told a news conference.

Of them, 58 who were seriously injured had been hospitalized, Ma Chengyang, deputy director of the provincial publicity department, told another press briefing Tuesday night.

Torrential rain on Saturday night prompted an avalanche of sludge and debris to crash down on the county seat of Zhouqu early Sunday morning, ripping many houses off their foundations and tearing multi-story apartment buildings in half.

The mud-rock flow has leveled an area of about 5 km long, 300 meters wide and 5 meters deep in the county seat with more than 2 million cubic meters of mud and rocks, severely damaging power, telecommunication and water supply facilities.

About 45,000 residents have been evacuated, as mudslides have destroyed more than 300 homes and damaged another 700. Moreover, 3,000 homes have been flooded.

More than 4,400 tents have reached Zhouqu but most of them have not yet been set up due to a lack of open space, Tian said.

About 16,000 more tents from the Ministry of Civil Affairs are still in Lanzhou, the provincial capital, Tian said.

The mountainous terrain has hampered disaster relief operations. Rescuers could only set up 100 tents in two settlement centers on the playgrounds of two middle schools.

"We have adequate tents, but insufficient space to pitch them," said Zhang Hongdong, a worker with the county's Red Cross Society.

Most people affected by the disaster sought shelter with their relatives and friends in nearby regions, Zhang added.

Miracle amid fading hopes

A 52-year-old Tibetan was pulled alive from the debris of a toppled apartment building Tuesday, more than 50 hours after the landslide disaster.

The man, by name of Liu Ma Shindan, was rescued at 11:20 a.m. in the ruins of a residential building for telecommunication workers in the county seat.

Doctors said his heart rate and breathing were normal, but he was too weak to speak. He received first-aid at a makeshift clinic in the county seat.

Senior Chinese leaders Tuesday called for greater efforts to save lives and property in the mudslide-flattened county.

Authorities must make scientific arrangements, take more forceful measures and make the most of every second to save those trapped, said a statement issued after a meeting of members of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee Political Bureau.

More than 10,000 troops, police and fire fighters were battling through sludge and rubble Tuesday in a round-the-clock operation to find survivors, even as hopes of finding survivors faded two days after mudslide leveled the county seat.

The water level in an artificial lake formed after debris blocked the Bailong River has fallen by more than one meter after several blasts, reducing the risks of further landslides.

Rescue efforts, however, could be further complicated as thunderstorms are forecast for the next three days, according to the Lanzhou meteorological station.

Local authorities also have ordered to boost epidemic prevention and provide safe drinking water within a week.

Trauma haunts survivors

Fourteen psychological specialists have arrived in Zhouqu to provide post-traumatic counseling to survivors who lost their family members in the disaster.

A survey of 186 survivors by the specialists showed about 80 percent of the respondents had showed symptoms of post-traumatic disorders, with some even had tendency of suicide, said Mi Denghai, an expert with a Gansu provincial center of mental health.

Some survivors did not want to eat and could barely fall asleep over the past days and some even got frightened on hearing the sound of rain, according to the survey.

Zhang Dong, a psychological specialist from Beijing, said: "We should work out a mid- and long-term post-traumatic counseling plan as more psychological problems will occur one month later as shown in other disasters."

(Xinhua News Agency August 10, 2010)

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