Rescue teams found the first body yesterday almost 36 hours after a giant landslide in Tibet buried 83 mine workers under 2 million cubic meters of earth, China’s state media reported.
Xinhua news agency said rescuers “found the first body at 5:35pm,” after a huge section of land buried a copper mine workers’ camp in Maizhokunggar county, east of Lhasa, at 6am on Friday.
The report came after officials said at a press conference at 10am yesterday that a massive search and rescue operation had failed to locate any survivors or bodies up to that point.
A rescue worker had also described the chance of survivors being found as “slim,” Xinhua said, as teams using sniffer dogs and radar combed the mountainside in a hunt for survivors that was hampered by bad weather, altitude sickness and further landslides.
Meanwhile, an emergency response team attempted to prevent a secondary disaster.
The Tibetan landslide came on the same day as a gas blast in a northeast China coal mine killed 28 people. State media said 13 others were rescued after the accident at Babao Coal Mine in Baishan, Jilin Province.
State-run China National Television (CNTV) said on its news Web site that “rescue workers have established three defensive lines” around the landslide disaster zone to prevent “secondary disasters,” without giving details.
It also said that some of the 2,000-strong rescue team had set up temporary accommodation half-way up the mountain as a safety measure against further landslides. The disaster zone is located 4,600m above sea level.
The Xinhua report quoted a rescue worker saying that there were cracks along nearby mountains, which indicated further landslides were possible.
It also said that rescuers had been suffering from slight altitude sickness and that “further minor landslides” had hampered their efforts.
“Temperatures as low as minus-3oC have also affected the sniffer dogs’ senses of smell,” the report added.
State broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) yesterday showed dozens of bulldozers shifting earth as others headed to the disaster area.
The Tencent news Web site said 15 dog teams and 15 teams using radar monitoring equipment were accompanying 200 bulldozers and heavy lifting vehicles.
The victims of the disaster worked for a subsidiary of the China National Gold Group Corporation (CNGG), a state-owned company and the nation’s biggest gold miner by output.
Almost all of them were Han Chinese, the national ethnic majority, with only two ethnic Tibetans, Xinhua said.