More than 140 people are feared buried after a landslide, caused by torrential rain, smashed through a mountain village in China’s southwestern Sichuan province, according to the official Xinhua news agency, citing local authorities.
The landslide blocked a two-kilometre (1.24 miles) stretch of a nearby river, according to Xinhua, but the agency did not give an estimate of the number killed or injured. However it reported that the landslide had covered 40 homes.
There were 400 people involved in the rescue effort and 6 ambulances were at the scene, and more were on their way, Xinhua reported.
Reports showed rescuers using ropes to move a massive rock while others where searching the rubble for survivors.
Heavy diggers were also assigned to remove boulders, the images showed. Medics were seen treating a woman on a road.
Police have closed roads in the county to all traffic except for emergency services, the Xinhua news agency stated.
There is an extensive network of dams in the region, including two hydropower plants in Diexi town near the buried village.
The area is prone to earthquakes, including one in 1933 that resulted in parts of Diexi town becoming submerged by a nearby lake, and an 8.0 magnitude tremor in central Sichuan’s Wenchuan county in 2008 that killed nearly 70,000 people, Reuters reported.
Wang Yongbo, one of the local officials in charge of rescue efforts, said the vital signs one of the survivors “are weak.”
“It’s the biggest landslide in this area since the Wenchuan earthquake,” he said.
China’s President Xi Jinping called for rescuers to “spare no effort” in their search for survivors.
A researcher from the Chengdu Chinese Academy of Social Science, a state-backed think tank, told China Radio International that heavy rainfall probably was behind the slide.
The researcher, whose name wasn’t mentioned, also warned of the risk that a dam could collapse, endangering communities further downstream.