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Rescue Workers Scramble to Save Hundreds Buried in Chinese Landslide

  • Daniel Schearf

Rescue workers in China are scrambling to save hundreds of people believed to be trapped under buildings and rubble in northwest Gansu province.

Heavy rains and mudslides buried a town, killing at least 127 people. Some 1,300 others are missing.

Thousands of rescuers are working around the clock to find survivors missing since a river burst its banks early Sunday.

Heavy rains in Gansu Province's Zhouqu County caused mudslides that also blocked part of the river, turning it into a lake. The lake burst, smashing flood waters into hundreds of nearby buildings and homes and burying people in mud and water while they slept.

China's Premier Wen Jiabao on Sunday traveled to Gansu to tour the disaster area. China's Central Television showed Mr. Wen in a helicopter surveying the devastated town.

He then joined soldiers and other rescue workers trying to free people trapped under buildings, mud and debris.

Standing around a pile of mud and wooden beams, a group of soldiers told the premier that there were two people trapped underneath. Mr. Wen yelled at those trapped, telling them not to move. He said they were working quickly to save them.

Mr. Wen was also shown reassuring a victim of the mudslide, saying that rescuing people was the most important thing and that houses could be rebuilt.

The disaster area is in a remote and mountainous part of the province, making it difficult to bring in heavy rescue equipment.

Workers were shown using shovels, buckets and their bare hands to try find people still trapped. An entire village of some 300 homes was buried under mud.

Xinhua says emergency supplies of food, water and thousands of tents are being sent to the town. Forty-five-thousand people have been evacuated from the area and more rain is forecast for this week.

More than 1,000 people have been killed across China this year in some of the worst floods the country has seen in a decade.

The heavy rains have also wiped out farmland and livestock, and caused billions of dollars in damages.