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China landslide toll rises to 254

Hundreds more are believed to be buried under acres of sludge.

September 14, 2008|From the Associated Press

BEIJING — The death toll has risen to 254 in a landslide triggered by the collapse of an illegal mining dump that engulfed a village in northern China, a government official said today.

By late Saturday, rescuers had identified 128 of the bodies recovered after Monday's accident in Xiangfen county, said a duty officer surnamed Zhang with the Shanxi provincial government.

The number could rise as more than 1,000 rescue workers comb through 74 acres of sludge and mining waste covering the area, where hundreds more people could be buried.

The landslide was triggered when the retaining wall of a mining dump containing tons of liquid iron-ore waste collapsed, inundating the village of 1,300 residents and an outdoor market with hundreds of patrons in a matter of minutes.

The official New China News Agency cited the head of the rescue effort as saying that the team would strive to finish the search in three to five days.

Rescuers have covered more than 90% of the area, and it could take several more days to cover two channels where villagers believe more bodies are buried, the report said.

The head of Xiangfen county and the county's Communist Party committee chief have been suspended from duty, New China News Agency reported.

Thirteen officials from the Tashan Mining Co., which ran the illegal mine, have been taken into police custody, including the chairman of the company's board of directors, the mine owner, the deputy mine chief, and company accountants, it earlier reported.

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