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China mourning for landslide dead

Cinemas closed and coal miners stopped work as China observed a day of mourning for more than 1,200 victims of a mudslide a week earlier in a north-western town, while the race to protect survivors from more flooding continued.

In a televised memorial service, some 5,000 rescue workers and Zhouqu residents bowed their heads in silence as a siren wailed. TV showed coal miners in northern China and railway workers with their heads bowed in mourning.

Cinemas and karaoke parlours were ordered to close and concerts were cancelled in memory of at least 1,248 people who were killed as the mudslide triggered by heavy rain crashed through Zhouqu in Gansu province on August 8.

The government says another 496 people are still missing.

With more rain forecast, soldiers who are trying to prevent more flooding in Zhouqu went back to work after the memorial, using construction equipment to clear debris from the swollen Bailong River that flows through the town.

Television said "moderate to heavy rain" is expected from Tuesday to Thursday.

One-third of the town is still under water following the disaster. The Ministry of Civil Affairs said at least 45,000 people were evacuated.

State media reported cases of dysentery but no epidemic. Mobile purification units that can provide water for up to 30,000 people were taken to the area, the government's China News Service reported.

The giant Chinese flag on Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing and flags at government offices were lowered to half-staff. Websites switched to all-black formats.

Performances at the Shanghai World Expo were cancelled.

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