No survivors found in Tibet landslide

2013-03-30 15:21
Tibet landslide (Picture: AP)

Tibet landslide (Picture: AP)

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Beijing - A huge search and rescue operation failed to locate any survivors by Saturday morning, more than a day after a giant landslide in Tibet buried 83 mine workers under two million cubic metres of earth.

Search teams using sniffer dogs and radar combed the mountainside throughout the night after a 3km section of land buried a copper mine workers' camp in Maizhokunggar county, east of Tibetan capital Lhasa.

Chinese officials made the grim announcement that no survivors had been found at a press conference at 10:00 on Saturday, reported by state media nearly two hours later. The landslide struck at about 06:00 on Friday.

"Rescuers have not yet found survivors or bodies," authorities were quoted by the official Xinhua news agency as saying.

The Tibetan landslide came on the same day as a gas blast in a northeast China coal mine, which killed 28 people. State media said 13 others were rescued after the accident at Babao Coal Mine in the city of Baishan in Jilin province.

State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) on Saturday showed dozens of bulldozers shifting earth as others headed to the disaster area in Tibet, located 4 600m above sea level.

The Tencent news website said the harsh environment and low oxygen were hampering the search, adding that 15 dog teams and 15 teams using radar monitoring equipment were accompanying 200 bulldozers and heavy lifting vehicles.

"The oxygen content is very low, and the terrain is very difficult, but the rescue forces are arriving at the scene in a steady stream," the report said.

Weight of the soil

The operation was hampered by the sheer weight of soil that came crashing down the mountainside.

"Much of the rescue relies on machines digging through the soil given the weight of the landslide," said a report by China National Radio news website.

The victims of the disaster worked for a subsidiary of the China National Gold Group Corporation (CNGG), a state-owned company and the nation's biggest gold miner by output.

Almost all of them were Han Chinese, the national ethnic majority, with only two of them ethnic Tibetans, Xinhua said. Most were migrant workers from the provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan.

China's new President Xi Jinping, who is currently visiting the Republic of Congo in Africa, and new Premier Li Keqiang had ordered "top efforts" to rescue the victims, Xinhua added.

Mountainous regions of Tibet are prone to landslides, which can be exacerbated by heavy mining activity.

In recent years China has discovered huge mineral resources in Tibet, including tens of millions of tonnes of copper, lead and zinc, and billions of tonnes of iron ore, according to state media reports.

CNGG could not be reached by AFP on Saturday.

An official from Maizhokunggar County said all of her colleagues were at the scene, but could not be reached for updates.

Read more on:    china  |  tibet  |  natural disasters
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