BEIJING // A man was pulled out alive yesterday morning from a hotel, 81 hours after being trapped by mudslides that followed torrential rains on Saturday evening. Wang Dianlan had survived on dry noodles and was dehydrated when he was picked up by rescuers. The disaster, which saw three villages almost completely engulfed by mudslides, has claimed 1,117 lives and left a further 627 people missing, according to local authorities.
After being forced to use shovels and hoes to search for survivors in the first three days, the 10,000 rescue and clean-up workers, many of them soldiers, yesterday had heavy machinery at their disposal after roads leading to the affected areas were opened. Efforts were focused on the further draining of a barrier lake caused by blockages in the Bailong River, with troops using both excavators and controlled explosions to clear debris. Officials said the volume of the lake had been halved and it was no longer in danger of overflowing and causing further mudslides.
However, forecasters warned there could be several more days of heavy rains. Relatives of those missing kept vigil beside the collapsed buildings in which their loved ones lived in the hope of retrieving their bodies. "I know there's no chance for my mother - our house has disappeared altogether - but I need to find her and give her a decent burial," Yang Yuzhong, 33, was quoted by the state Xinhua News Agency as saying. His wife's body was found by rescuers on Monday.
"I escaped with my son in my arms, but my wife and mother were not fast enough," he added. Similarly, state media reported that Wang Pingtao, 20, had spent two days sitting on debris close to where his father's apartment had been buried in sludge. Only the roof of the four-storey building was said to be visible. "I have to see him, whether he's dead or alive," Mr Wang said. Ren Tianwen, who is in charge of a team of 700 armed police helping with rescue operations, said it was difficult to stop searching for victims.
"So the clean-up is going very slowly. We stop every time there's a chance of finding a body," he said. Medical teams in the area were working to prevent disease outbreaks, and officials said yesterday there were no signs of any epidemics. Relief supplies have continued to pour into the area, with 7,000 tents, 21,400 cotton quilts, 5,000 sleeping bags and 5,000 folding beds, along with drinking water, instant noodles, generators, candles, radios and televisions all having arrived, according to state media.
About 30 per cent of the population in Zhouqu County, the part of Gansu province hit by the mudslides, is Tibetan. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org