A devastating landslide struck a remote mountain village in southwest China’s Yunnan province on January 22, burying dozens of people under thick mud and debris. Rescue crews are racing against time to pull any survivors from the rubble, but freezing winter temperatures are hampering efforts as more rain threatens to cause additional slides.
Over 40 Feared Missing After Landslide Buries 18 Homes
According to state media reports, the landslide hit early Sunday morning in Zhenxiong county, burying nearly 20 homes in the village of Wandong under some 24 million cubic feet of mud.
“More than 40 people have reportedly been buried by a landslide that hit a village in China’s mountainous southwestern province of Yunnan, with rescue efforts underway,” local authorities told state media.
Over 500 rescue workers, including firefighters, police forces and other emergency responders have been deployed to the site with search dogs and life detection equipment. However, their efforts are being hampered by continuing rain and snow.
“The area impacted by the landslide is large. We have dispatched more than 500 rescuers to the site, including firefighters, armed police forces and other emergency responders,” the ministry said. “The rain is still falling and we have to take many factors into consideration. It is complicated rescue work.”
Race Against Time To Find Survivors
As the hours tick by, hopes are fading for those trapped beneath the crushing weight of the frozen mud. Temperatures in the mountainous area can drop well below freezing at night at this time of year.
Still, snippets of hope continue to emerge from the rubble. On Sunday night, rescuer Li Min told state broadcaster CCTV that cries could be heard coming from the debris.
“We could hear people crying for help from three different places,” Li said. As of Monday morning, state media has reported that six bodies have been pulled from the site so far.
Dozens still remain unaccounted for as rescue efforts stretch into a second day. Over 2,500 local residents have reportedly been evacuated from the area as the search continues.
Mountainous Region Prone to Deadly Landslides
Southwest China is prone to deadly landslides, especially during the rainy season in summer. In August 2017, at least 32 people were killed in a landslide in Sichuan province. In 2018, 28 were killed after twin avalanches trapped vehicles in Tibet.
While the cause of this latest landslide is still under investigation, deforestation and increased development in the mountainous regions is destabilizing slopes and making mudslides more common. Changing climate patterns may also play a role, as rising temperatures melt glaciers and permafrost – the permanently frozen layer beneath the soil.
|Jan 22, 2024
Yunnan’s Zhenxiong county, where the current landslide struck, is itself no stranger to deadly slides. In 2014, the area saw multiple landslides which damaged homes and blocked important transport routes. Experts have warned authorities to limit unchecked development in the seismically active region, especially projects like hydropower dams which further destabilize slopes.
Questions Remain Over Disaster Warning Systems
Even as the search continues, questions are emerging over why residents may have been left unaware of the imminent danger. The mountainous region is prone to catastrophic landslides, yet many remote villages lack proper early warning systems that could give locals and travellers time to evacuate.
Provincial authorities have pledged to improve networks that can better predict slides and monitor eroding slopes using technology like drones and satellite imagery. Integrating innovative detection solutions with traditional indigenous knowledge will also play a key role in keeping communities informed and prepared.
Still, implementing effective safeguards represents an enormous challenge across Yunnan’s vast rural areas – especially reaching its most remote mountain villages. While officials work to strengthen oversight and regulations, local communities are also mobilizing to demand improved disaster prevention education campaigns tailored to their unique needs.
Outlook: Risk of Additional Landslides Looms
As Yunnan enters its rainy season, the risk remains high for additional catastrophic landslides across the mountainous province. While emergency crews maintain rescue operations in Zhenxiong county, provincial authorities are surveying nearby areas to identify vulnerable slopes and communities most at risk.
Weather forecasts predict heavy rain over the coming week, threatening to trigger new slides that could further hamper rescue efforts and endanger surrounding populations. Evacuating these high-risk areas remains a priority, although the remoteness of many rural villages continues to pose challenges.
With climate change impacting fragile ecosystems across southwest China, deadly landslides may unfortunately grow more frequent. But strengthening prediction networks, community education and sustainable development provides hope for adapting to protect the millions who call the region home.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.