China landslide buries more than 40 houses, state media says

(CNN) — More than 120 people are missing after a landslide in southwest China’s Sichuan province buried more than 40 houses, the Chinese state-run broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported Saturday.

Earlier, officials said 141 people were missing. CCTV did not explain how officials reduced the figure.

The landslide occurred at 6 a.m. local time in Xinmo village in Mao County, Aba Prefecture, CCTV said.

Emergency response measures have been activated and 780 rescue workers are on the scene, the broadcaster said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered “all-out efforts” to save those buried, China’s People’s Daily tweeted.

Images from the scene show rescuers working to remove piles of rocks.

Police team leader Wang Yongbo told CCTV a smaller second landslide caused huge rocks to fall onto the village, which has made it more difficult for heavy machinery to get to the scene.

‘My heart feels uncomfortable’

A family of three were pulled alive from the rubble on Saturday, the Mao County government said on its official Weibo page. The couple and their baby are being treated at the Mao County People’s Hospital, the post said.

CCTV later interviewed Qiao Dashuai who said he had heard a loud sound and wanted to close the door to his house as wind was blowing in.

“I ran outside and felt this strong wind and saw water rushing towards us. A rock fell into our living room. We slowly crawled out while holding our baby and escaped. People from a neighboring village gave the baby a bath, and looked for clothes for us and the baby. As we went to the crossroads, we saw an ambulance. The ambulance sent us to Mao County [Hospital],” Qiao said.

“Now we just have external wounds, and there aren’t any major problems. But my heart feels uncomfortable. Several dozen households in this one village have all been submerged.”

CCTV reported that Quiao’s baby was just over a month old.

The landslide happened at a high part of a mountain and fell onto the village, blocking a 2-kilometer (1.25-mile) section of a river course, China’s state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

CCTV originally reported that more than 100 people had been buried.

Cause of landslide

An official from China’s Ministry of Land and Resources told CCTV that the causes of landslides were complicated and could include rain and unstable rock masses.

“In this landslide, we feel that it is also because the whole mountain structure in Sichuan has become loosened following the earthquake on May 12, 2008. There is a drop in the ‘dynamic properties’, and its stability has also decreased. The recent rainfall has triggered the landslide,” Tian Yanshan said.

“Earthquakes, mining activities — many man-made and natural activities can possibly trigger landslides. When the stability of the mountain structure has reached its maximum, any triggering factor could lead to landslides.”

Mountainous Sichuan province has a history of landslides triggered by flooding and earthquakes.

In 1933 6,800 people died in landslides triggered by an earthquake and a further 2,500 were killed when a dam caused by one of the landslides failed.