Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

At least 120 killed in China floods

Rescuers search for missing people in Zhouqu county after landslides and flooding triggered by heavy rain killed at least 120 people. (AP)

Rubble-strewn floodwaters have torn through a remote corner of north-western China, smashing buildings, overturning cars and killing at least 127 people.

Half of an entire town was under water and an estimated 2,000 more people were missing in the latest deluge in a summer that has seen China's worst seasonal flooding in a decade.

Terrified residents fled to high ground or upper stories of apartment buildings after a debris-blocked river overflowed during the night in the north-west province of Gansu.

Worst hit was the county seat of Zhouqu in the province's Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, with the official Xinhua News Agency reporting half of it under water.

Many houses collapsed and streets were covered with a metre of mud and water after the early morning landslides, it said.

The landslides struck after heavy rains lashed the country late Saturday and the Bailong River overflowed, Xinhua quoted the head of Zhouqu county, Diemujiangteng, as saying,

"Now the sludge (thick mud) has became the biggest problem to rescue operations. It's too thick to walk or drive through," he said.

State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) said the death toll in the province was at least 127, with about 2,000 people missing. Power, water and communications were cut in affected areas in the southern part of the province, about one-third of whose residents are ethnic Tibetan, and it was not known how many of the missing were in danger or simply out of contact.

The devastation was worsened by the blockage of the river upstream, which created a two mile-long lake that overfilled and sent waves of mud, rocks and water crashing down on the town, ripping houses from their foundations and tearing six-story apartment buildings in half.

Explosive experts were flying to the scene by helicopter to demolish the blockage and safely release potential flood waters.

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