34 dead after mudslide sweeps through Chinese town
Mining business in China is always fraught with risk and it has highest number of casualties. Most of the victims are the poor miners. A muslide in northern China has killed more than 34 people killed after a warehouse wall collapsed. The warehouse was stored with mine waste.
At least 34 people were killed after an industrial rock and mud slide swept through a town in northern China, engulfing homes, a market and an office building, the government said on Tuesday.
The death toll from Monday's disaster in a small mining town in Shanxi province could rise with state television reporting that hundreds of people may be missing and footage showing entire streets buried under the sludge.
"Most importantly we must focus on the search work," Shanxi governor Meng Xuenong said on state television.
"We must make a 100 percent effort to save the lives of people."
The incident occurred about 8:00 am on Monday when rain-triggered mudslides breached the walls of a reservoir holding waste ore dregs at an illegal mine and stormed into Taoshi township, China's work safety administration said.
A three-story office building, a market place and numerous homes in Taoshi, which sits below the ore tailings reservoir, were destroyed by the flow of mud and mining waste, the administration said in a statement on its website.
Stall operators at the the market place and office workers were just arriving to their jobs when the mudslide came crashing down.
"It was terrible," the official Xinhua news agency quoted local worker Wei Guanghui as saying.
"The mud-rock flow looked about seven meters high. It roared down the valley and washed away the market and the houses in a few minutes."
Over 1,000 police, soldiers and firemen were digging through the rubble and mud on Tuesday in the hope of finding survivors, the administration said.
Photos of the rescue showed workers wading through the mud probing for victims with long poles.
The work safety administration said the confirmed death toll was 34, with 35 injured and an unknown number of people missing.
The Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, citing locals at the scene, said up to 500 people could have been buried, but local authorities could not confirm any numbers.
"We really don't know how many people were there at that time. We are busy with search and rescue work at present," an official at Xiangfen county, which oversees Taoshi, said on phone.
Work safety officials are blaming the Tashan ore mine for the disaster and have detained the mine boss and eight other company officials, the administration said on its website.
The Tashan mining company was operating illegally and the stored waste ore dregs had surpassed the capacity of the reservoir, Wang Dexue, vice head of the work safety administration, said on state television.
Taoshi sits in a narrow valley at the base of Tashan mountain and is populated by more than 23,000 people, with the ore mining industry a major employer, a Shanxi provincial website said.
Industrial accidents occur frequently in China, where mines and factories often operate illegally or in contravention of safety laws.