Chinese Landslide Buries 47 Alive

Hundreds of people were buried alive on Monday, January 21, in a landslide in China. Rescuers are racing against the clock in subzero conditions to locate them.

Before dawn, while most residents of two towns were still asleep, a huge cliff gave way. According to a Chinese media outlet, houses were buried with feet of rock, dirt, and snow. The foundations of other houses and structures collapsed.

The region was evacuated, affecting about 500 individuals.

Near Beijing, in the southwestern part of the country, sits Zhengxiong Province, which has an elevation of up to 7,900 feet.

At first, the authorities listed 47 persons from 18 different households as missing.  Reports show that 34 bodies have been recovered so far, with ten individuals remaining unaccounted for.

A cold snap is hitting Zhaotong, which is making the search more difficult. Any stranded survivors were in danger as the temperatures dipped below freezing overnight.  Villages are blanketed with snow, but despite the cold, searchers toiled away. One thousand rescue personnel were sent, according to a statement made by officials.

A local news outlet has reported that the soil at the location is not stable enough to support the operation of heavy machines.

The USGS reports that on Monday, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake shook northwest China. Aykol, China, a remote and poorly inhabited region, was around 80 miles to the west-northwest of the epicenter.  Three people were killed, and almost fifty houses were demolished in the quake.

Rain or hazardous building practices are significant causes of landslides in China. Among the 70 fatalities caused by landslides in 2023, almost 50 died at an open pit mine in Inner Mongolia.

An estimated 691 people lost their lives or went missing as a direct consequence of natural disasters that occurred in China in the previous year, as reported by the Ministry of Emergency Management of China. A direct impact of around $48 billion was inflicted upon the economy.