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New landslides leave 38 missing

 

Heavy rains triggered landslides Saturday that left at least 38 missing in southwest China, state media said, adding misery to a nation already battling with huge floods and a massive mudslide that has claimed over 1,200 lives.

Landslides destroyed hospital buildings in Wenchuan county, the epicentre of an earthquake in May 2008 that left nearly 87,000 dead or missing, the official Xinhua news agency said.

No deaths were immediately reported in the landslides, but 38 people were missing and 10,000 people had been evacuated, Xinhua said. The government turned schools and municipal office buildings into temporary shelters.

Debris blocked a river creating a flood lake in Yingxing Township and more than 4,000 people and about 1,300 vehicles were stranded on blocked roads.

A 200-metre (220-yard) stretch of the only highway linking Wenchuan with Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, was covered with water four metres deep, the report said.

Authorities warned torrential rains would continue into Sunday and said further flash floods, landslides and floating debris continued to pose dangers in Sichuan and neighbouring Gansu province, Xinhua said.

China announced Sunday would be a day of mourning for the more than 1,200 people who died in last weekend's mudslides in Zhouqu, a remote mountain town in Gansu in the northwest.

Flags were to fly at half-mast on Sunday and public entertainment was to be suspended for the day of mourning to express condolences for the mudslide victims, China's State Council, or Cabinet, said Saturday.

The Culture Ministry issued an order saying recreational activities, such as movies, karaoke and online games and music, should be suspended on Sunday.

The heavy rains have affected more than 305 million people and caused 1.7 billion dollars in economic losses, Xinhua said, citing the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters agency.

The report did not give details on how the vast numbers of people have been affected.

In mudslide-stricken Zhouqu, 505 people were still missing after last weekend's avalanche of mud and rocks, which levelled an area five kilometres (three miles) long and 300 metres wide.

The official death toll in Zhouqu stood at 1,239 as of Saturday.

Health authorities said survivors of the deadly floods and landslides in Zhouqu faced a grim situation after clinics were damaged and vaccines ruined.

However, relief workers continued to gradually restore water, power and telecommunication services in Zhouqu, Xinhua reported Saturday.

Elsewhere in Gansu, new floods and landslides killed 29 people and left 27 missing in the cities of Longnan and Tianshui close to Zhouqu, Xinhua said.

About 10,600 residents in Longnan were evacuated after more than 150 millimetres (six inches) of rain fell overnight on Wednesday.

The mudslides in Zhouqu are the latest in a string of weather-related disasters across China. More than 2,100 people have been left dead or missing and 12 million evacuated nationwide, not including the toll from the Zhouqu incident.

The civil affairs ministry said Friday it had not calculated a new nationwide flood death toll.

China's meteorological agency also warned Saturday heavy rains would return to the country's northeastern regions after several days of respite, issuing an alert for the northeastern provinces of Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang.

Since June, rain-triggered floods have left 85 people dead and 67 others missing in Jilin, according to the local flood control authorities.

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