External Affairs

Despair and Frustration Rises After Deadly China Landslide

Women react at the site of a landslide, in the village of Xinmo, Sichuan Province, China June 25, 2017. Credit: Reuters

Mao County, China: Frustration grew on Monday among family members of victims of a landslide that buried a mountain village in southwestern China, with some complaining about a lack of information and asking why they had not been moved from an area prone to land slips.

At least 93 people remain missing, along with 10 confirmed dead, after a landslide crashed down on the village of Xinmo, in mountainous Sichuan province, as dawn broke on Saturday.

The government has sent some 3,000 rescuers, along with equipment, to the area and has promised to do all it can to look for survivors while restricting access for safety reasons.

The government of Mao county, where the village is located, posted on Monday drone video footage of the disaster zone, showing a dozen or so mechanical diggers shifting through a vast landscape of rubble, and promising to release updated information in a timely manner.

About 100 family members, unhappy with what they said was limited information, met with government officials at a nearby primary school, saying they wanted to go back home, were concerned about the rebuilding process and whether it would be done by winter, and what would happened to children orphaned.

Rescue workers carry a victim at the site of a landslide that occurred in Xinmo Village, Mao County, Sichuan province, China, June 25, 2017. Credit: Reuters/China Daily

“These government officials have been lying to us these past three days,” a middle aged man from Xinmo village who has several relatives buried, told Reuters after the meeting, declining to give his name.

“They told us we could go back yesterday morning but they kept delaying and delaying giving us all kinds of excuses. They told us a central government official was going to come to visit us. He showed up and didn’t even bother to speak to us.”

Another relative said the government should have moved them out of an area they knew was prone to landslides.

“There have been landslides before but no one has ever suggested we move. The government knows its dangerous to live in these kinds of villages and yet they do nothing,” said the elderly man, who also would not provide his name.

The official China Daily cited Xu Qiang, a disaster expert at the Ministry of Land and Resources, as saying large-scale relocations in the area were difficult.

“Many of the villagers have been living here for generations and seen no major geological disasters,” Xu said. “This is their home and livelihood and it is very difficult to convince them to leave, specially when you only have a hypothesis and predictions.”

Heavy rain triggered the landslide, authorities have said.

Sichuan province is also prone to earthquakes, including an 8.0 magnitude tremor in central Sichuan’s Wenchuan county in 2008 that killed nearly 70,000 people.

Mao county sits next to Wenchuan. State media says the mountainside which collapsed onto the village had been weakened by the 2008 temblor.

County residents are primarily poor farmers of the Qiang ethnic minority and the area is the target of a poverty alleviation project, according to government officials.


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