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Hopes fade in grim search for Xinmo landslide survivors

شعار Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 25/06/2017
Industrial excavators removed rubble at the site of the landslide as bodies were recovered [Reuters] © Provided by Al Jazeera Industrial excavators removed rubble at the site of the landslide as bodies were recovered [Reuters]

Rescue workers in southwestern China have recovered several bodies as hopes fade in the search for 93 other people missing after a massive landslide buried down a mountain village.

A huge landslide crashed on the village of Xinmo, in mountainous Sichuan province, as dawn broke on Saturday.

Thousands of rescuers with detection devices and dogs on Sunday were looking for signs of life amid the rubble of massive boulders that rained down on the village.

Industrial excavators removed rubble at the site of the landslide while relatives of the lost cried or looked stone-faced nearby.

Authorities at the scene confirmed on Sunday that 10 bodies had been recovered, contradicting a report by the Xinhua state news agency on Saturday saying that 15 people had been confirmed killed. They also decreased the number of missing people.

"This is useless," villager Han Jianying, searching for missing family members, told the Reuters news agency. "Everyone's going to be in pieces anyway."

A couple and their two-month-old baby were the only survivors reported to have been found alive.

Geological experts said the chances of anyone surviving under the rubble were slim, Xinhua reported.

"We weren't able to pull anyone out alive," said Wu Youheng, who lives in a neighbouring village and rushed to help on Saturday, according to Reuters.

"We pulled out two people but they were already dead. I think it's too late, they're unlikely to find anyone else alive."

The area is prone to landslides but the scale of Saturday's slide was unprecedented, Wu added.

2008 earthquake

Al Jazeera's Florence Loi, reporting from a location close to the Xinmo village, said the area had been struck by a massive earthquake in 2008, which killed nearly 90,000 people.

"Some geologists have questioned whether the quake may have caused the slope to become unstable," she said.

Sitting on the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau and part of Aba prefecture, Xinmo has in recent years become a tourism destination for its picturesque scenery of homes in lush meadows tucked between steep and rugged mountains.

After the landslide, images posted by local authorities on social media showed a vast area of sheer rubble.

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

Xinhua reported that all 142 tourists in the area had been evacuated and were not harmed.

The names of the missing were posted on government websites.

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