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Landslide buries 47 people in southwestern China

BEIJING — A landslide early Monday in southwestern China’s mountainous Yunnan province buried 47 people, killing at least two, and forced the evacuation of 200 more amid freezing temperatures and falling snow.

The disaster struck just before 6 a.m. local time (5 p.m. Sunday ET) in the village of Liangshui in the northeastern part of Yunnan province. Rescue efforts were underway to find victims buried in 18 separate houses, the Zhenxiong county publicity department said.

Two bodies were pulled from the rubble, according to state broadcaster CCTV. The cause of the landslide was not immediately known as survivors and rescuers struggled with snow and freezing temperatures that were forecast to persist for at least the next three days.

Luo Dongmei, 35, was sleeping when the landslide struck, but she survived and was relocated to a school building by local authorities.

“I was asleep, but my brother knocked on the door and woke me up. They said there was a landslide and the bed was shaking, so they rushed upstairs and woke us up,” Luo said.

Luo, her husband and their three children, along with many other residents, have been provided with food at the school but are still waiting for blankets and other protection from the cold weather, she said.

Luo said she had been unable to contact her sister and aunt, who lived closer to the site of the landslide. “The only thing I can do is to wait,” she said.

Last week, rescuers evacuated tourists from a remote skiing area in northwestern China where dozens of avalanches set off by heavy snow had trapped more than 1,000 people for a week. The avalanches blocked roads, stranding both tourists and residents in a village in Altay prefecture in the Xinjiang region, close to China’s border with Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan.

Landslides, often caused by rain or unsafe construction work, are not uncommon in China. At least 70 people were killed in landslides last year, including more than 50 at an open pit mine in China’s Inner Mongolia region.

In all, natural disasters in China left 691 people dead and missing last year, causing direct economic losses of about 345 billion yuan ($48 billion), according to the National Commission for Disaster Reduction and the Ministry of Emergency Management.

Minister of Emergency Management Wang Xiangxi has traveled to the landslide site to guide rescue operations, according to a statement from the ministry.

The landslide in Yunnan also came just over a month after China’s most powerful earthquake in years struck the northwest in a remote region between Gansu and Qinghai province. At least 149 people were killed in the magnitude 6.2 temblor that struck on Dec. 18, reducing homes to rubble and setting off heavy mudslides that inundated two villages in Qinghai province.

Nearly 1,000 people were injured and more than 14,000 homes were destroyed in what was China’s deadliest earthquake in nine years.

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