Heroism in landslide saves lives

Updated: 2016-09-30 07:30

By Shi Xiaofeng in Suichang, Zhejiang, and Zhang Zhihao in Beijng(China Daily)

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The body of a female victim was retrieved by rescuers after a rain-triggered landslide hit a village in East China's Zhejiang province, authorities said on Thursday.

Later, the bodies of a child of 6 or 7 years of age and an elderly person were recovered as rescuers raced against time to dig out survivors.

Heroism in landslide saves lives

Rescuers and a sniffer dog search for survivors at the landslide site in Suichang county, Zhejiang province, on Thursday.[Lin Yunling/For China Daily]

As of Thursday evening, 13 people had been rescued and about 20 were missing after the landslide caused by Typhoon Megi hit Sucun village in Lishui at about 5:30 pm on Wednesday, the local government said.

A Sucun villager surnamed Zhan, who is 25 and seven months pregnant, was having dinner with her family when the landslide slammed into her house and swallowed her daughter and parents-in-law.

Lin Juxiang, 72, was helping her 78-year-old husband, whose right foot was injured, limp toward safety. Then Lin suddenly heard her neighbor Zhan's cry for help.

"You are hurt and can't help," Lin told her husband. "You be safe. I will meet you after I save her." She used a bamboo stick to reach out to Zhan and pulled her to safety.

Zhan's left leg was fractured, so Lin became her crutch. As they were fleeing, Lin saw the mudslide coming toward them, so they climbed to safety atop a large boulder. Two hours later, the rescue team found them neck deep in mud and water.

"I was going to save her. If I had just one breath left, I would still save her," Lin said.

After being reunited with her husband at the hospital in Suichang county, Zhan went to the intensive care unit, while Lin rested in a hospital bed. They were in stable condition on Thursday.

Zhan and her husband and Lin were among the 13 people rescued from the landslide, which buried 20 houses and flooded 17 others with about 400,000 cubic meters of debris.

Among the missing was a township cadre who was helping villagers relocate, said Zhou Ruichen, the deputy county mayor.

Villager Zheng Quanwei, 56, who was having dinner about 200 meters away from the scene, said: "I heard a loud noise and rushed outside. It was getting dark, but I could see some collapsed houses on the hillside. I couldn't help but burst into tears."

Villager Su Guohong, 58, fled in such a hurry that he lost one of his shoes. "The rocks were flowing down like water. The road split in front of me," he said.

Pan Zhaoxiang abandoned her housework and ran up the mountain with a group of people. They didn't dare to come down until 7:30 pm on Wednesday.

"When I left my home, I saw two cars being washed into the river. Some people were shouting 'Help!' I am still so scared now," she said.

The local government issued the highest-level environmental hazard response immediately after the landslide. By Thursday, 1,200 rescuers from 10 special disaster relief groups had joined the rescue effort to perform a range of duties, from operating excavators to delivering supplies, the local government said.

"Life is paramount, every second counts," the Suichang county government said on its website. More than 1,460 local residents had been relocated to safer areas as of Thursday morning.

At the site of the disaster, rocks continued to tumble down the mountain, creating barrier lakes.

More than 100 people were resettled in a temporary relocation site in a nearby village. Many villagers from Sucun are elders whose children are studying or working in cities.

By Thursday, Typhoon Megi had swept through 97 counties in Fujian, Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces, forcing 590,000 people to relocate and causing 2.6 billion yuan ($390 million) in direct economic losses, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The typhoon weakened into a tropical depression as it went deeper into China. However, Typhoon Chaba was en route to East Asia and may hit China and Japan in the next week, the China Meteorological Administration said.

Xinhua contributed to this story.