China landslide: More than 700 people confirmed dead


More than 700 people are now known to have died in a massive landslide in north-west China - making it one of the deadliest incidents so far in the country's worst flooding in a decade.

A frantic search is continuing for the more than 1,000 people still missing.

Buildings were hit by a wall of mud so mighty that buildings seven storeys high crumpled like paper, says the BBC's Chris Hogg, in Gansu province.

He says rescuers are searching by hand in the remote, mountainous region.

A 52-year-old man was pulled alive from the rubble more than 50 hours after the disaster, and other rescue teams say they have heard "very faint" signs of life elsewhere, state media reported.

Chinese premier Wen Jiabao has urged rescuers to keep looking until they find every last survivor.

But as the hours pass, hopes of finding survivors diminish.

"Around me are relatives of missing people sitting dazed, shocked. Each of them has stories," our correspondent says.

One woman has lost her husband and three teenage children. Until she saw their bodies with her own eyes she did not want to believe it, he adds.

The death toll was revised upwards on Tuesday from 337, and officials say that figure is expected to rise.

The weather forecast for the coming days is for heavy rain, which could hamper humanitarian work, and there is also the possibility of further landslides, says the BBC's Michael Bristow in Beijing.

Supplies running low

The landslides in remote Zhouqu county, Gansu, were triggered by torrential rains that hit the area late on Saturday.

The thick layer of mud levelled an area 5km (3 miles) by 500m, Xinhua said.

Landslide debris blocked a river which then burst its banks, sending water, rocks and mud down several hillsides and on to homes.

Soldiers have blasted through the blockage on the Bailong river, lowering the water level of an unstable lake created by the landslide.

Thousands of people have been evacuated from downstream villages that could be engulfed if the natural dam bursts.

The landslides came as China was struggling with its worst flooding in a decade, with more than 2,100 people reported dead or missing and millions more displaced nationwide.

President Hu Jintao led a meeting of senior ministers on Tuesday on plans to handle the crisis, Xinhua news agency said.

More than 7,000 soldiers, firefighters and medical staff are now at the scene of the landslide.

The Chinese premier has visited Zhouqu, urging rescue workers on in their efforts and comforting those affected.

Authorities have sent tents, food and water, but some supplies were reported to be running low because roads and bridges into the area have been destroyed.