Beijing (AFP) June 8, 2009
Rescuers digging through landslide debris in southwestern China have found seven bodies but 65 people were still missing as rains threatened search efforts, the government said Monday.
Rescuers had resorted to blasting through debris at the landslide scene in the Chongqing region in a frantic bid to find survivors of Friday's disaster, in which a whole mountainside collapsed onto several homes and an iron ore mine.
Rescuers had carried out five such explosions over the weekend in an effort to locate the entrance to the iron ore mine in Wulong county where 27 miners are feared trapped.
"The latest information is there were seven bodies found last night (Sunday) so there are 65 missing at present," a Chongqing government spokesman who gave only his surname, Li, told AFP by phone.
Another spokesman, Ai Yang, said on Sunday that hopes of finding any survivours were dim.
"We still are holding out hope for those miners trapped underground, but there are only faint hopes for those buried under rubble," Ai said.
Rescue efforts have focused on the mine where the miners were working when up to 12 million cubic metres (420 million cubic feet) of boulders and rock crashed down from Wulong mountain, Ai said.
With homes also buried, there were fears the rescue work would be hampered by rains forecast over the next several days.
State-run China Central Television reported Monday morning that rescue work had been temporarily suspended due to the rains.
Li, the government spokesman, said he could not confirm that report.
The massive slide also dammed up the Wujiang river, leading to fears that rising waters on a landslide-formed lake could burst, sending debris flooding down onto communities below.
An investigation has begun into the cause of the disaster, which also cut power lines and communications in several areas.
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