All 19 people caught in a landslide in southwestern China’s Sichuan province on Sunday have been confirmed dead, state media reported, announcing the end of rescue efforts.

Part of a mountain collapsed at around 6 am (2200 GMT Saturday) near a state-owned forestry station in Jinkouhe, near the city of Leshan, state broadcaster CCTV said.

Sichuan province China
The hilly terrain around Leshan, in China’s Sichuan province. Photo: Screenshot/Google.

The disaster sent mud and debris hurtling towards a construction site operated by a local mining company, where it “struck and buried parts of the production and living facilities at the mineshaft platform”, CCTV reported.

Nineteen people were confirmed dead as of 8 pm, the broadcaster said, adding that “search and rescue work has currently ended, and the cause of the… collapse is under investigation”.

Footage broadcast by CCTV showed rescuers and excavators picking through a tract of mud that had flattened a wooded hillside and strewn it with twisted metal and smashed masonry.

The Jinkouhe government earlier said the landslide had killed 14 people and left five missing.

An unspecified number of other mine workers “have been evacuated to a safe location”, according to CCTV.

Sichuan province in China. Photo: Wikimedia commons.

Authorities sent more than 180 people and over a dozen pieces of rescue and recovery equipment to the site, the broadcaster added.

Contacted by AFP earlier Sunday, an official in Jinkouhe’s publicity department declined to give further details.

The settlement of around 40,000 people lies in a mountainous region about 240 kilometres (150 miles) south of the provincial capital Chengdu.

Frequent danger

Landslides are a frequent danger in rural and mountainous parts of China, particularly during the rainy summer months.

Remote and densely forested, much of Sichuan is particularly prone to disasters.

Extreme weather triggered a series of landslides in the province in 2017, including one that completely buried the mountain village of Xinmo, entombing more than 60 homes.

The debris of the Xinmo village landslide as seen on 15 May 2018 from the reconstructed road. A red flag stands in memory of the victims. Photo: Wikicommons.
The debris of the Xinmo village landslide as seen on 15 May 2018 from the reconstructed road. A red flag stands in memory of the victims. Photo: Wikicommons.

In 2019, massive rains again caused a slew of landslides, including one that buried a section of railway under repair and those working on it.

The province is also seismically active and periodically experiences deadly earthquakes.

A 7.9-magnitude quake in 2008 left more than 87,000 people dead or missing, including 5,335 school pupils.

Although China has strengthened safety protocols in its extractive industries in recent years, accidents still frequently occur.

More than 50 people were declared “missing or dead” after a slope collapsed at a mine in the northern Inner Mongolia region in February.

And around 40 people were working underground when a gold mine in the northwestern Xinjiang region collapsed in December.

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