Rescuers hunt for survivors as Pakistan landslide death toll rises

Rescuers hunt for survivors as Pakistan landslide death toll rises
By Abu Arqam Naqash

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) – Army helicopters flew rescue missions for the third day running in an avalanche-hit area of Pakistani-Kashmir as the death toll from the disaster rose to 77 on Thursday, officials said.

The latest victim of the avalanches in Neelum Valley, in the Himalayan region disputed by Pakistan and India, was a six-year-old girl, Safia, who died in hospital on Thursday.

Safia had been pulled out alive on Tuesday after being buried for close to 20 hours, a doctor, quoting the child’s family, said. “She had suffered fractures in her skull and orbital bones and left leg and despite our best efforts died of her brain injuries,” the doctor, Adnan Mehraj, told Reuters.

Safia’s family were elated when she was found alive, her uncle, Naseer Ahmed told Reuters, but now relatives were in shock. Safia was the 19th member of the family to perish in the Neelum Valley avalanches.

“I am not in my senses … We have lost almost everyone in the family from young kids to elderly members,” said a visibly disturbed Ahmed.

“This extreme weather has played havoc with the lives of people living in high altitude mountains,” Pakistani-Kashmir’s top administrative official, Mathar Niaz Rana, said.

“We are trying our best to alleviate their sufferings,” he told Reuters as two helicopters were being loaded with relief supplies, including food and medicine, in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Meanwhile, in a separate area in Pakistan, further north, five personnel of the Pakistan army were killed when an avalanche hit them as they were carrying out rescue efforts, according to a senior official.

The five were from the engineer corps and helping clear roads covered by landslides in an area of Gilgit-Baltistan, a mountainous region that borders China. Avalanches in the area had earlier killed a woman and child, an official of the local disaster management authority, Farid Ahmed, said.

In total, 109 people have died across Pakistan in snow and landslide-related incidents over the last five days, including 20 deaths in the south-western province of Baluchistan.

(Writing by Gibran Peshimam, Editing by William Maclean)

Strong quake strikes northwest Japan, triggers small tsunami, power cuts

Scattered goods caused by an earthquake are seen at a supermarket in Tsuruoka, Yamagata prefecture, Japan June 19, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.

TOKYO (Reuters) – A strong and shallow earthquake struck Japan’s northwest coast around Niigata prefecture on Tuesday, triggering a small tsunami, shaking buildings and cutting power to around 9,000 buildings.

The magnitude 6.4 quake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), lasted for as long as 20 seconds and damage included a landslide that struck a road, according to public broadcaster NHK. There were no initial reports of fatalities or fires.

A collapsed wooden roof of a sumo wrestling ring caused by an earthquake is seen at the Oizumi Elementary School in Tsuruoka, Yamagata prefecture, Japan June 19, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.

A collapsed wooden roof of a sumo wrestling ring caused by an earthquake is seen at the Oizumi Elementary School in Tsuruoka, Yamagata prefecture, Japan June 19, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN.

Authorities lifted a 0.2-1.0 meter tsunami warning for the region after waves several centimeters high struck parts of the Niigata coast.

A tsunami of up to one meter could have caused some flooding and damage in low-lying coastal areas and river banks, though much of Japan’s coastline is guarded by sea walls.

“We will work closely with local authorities to provide any disaster measures including lifesaving and rescue operations and have instructed officials to provide information in a timely and accurate manner,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga – the top government spokesman – told a media briefing.

The quake struck at 10.22 p.m. local time (1322 GMT Thursday) at a depth of 12 kilometers (7.5 miles), the USGS said.

It measured 6.7 according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, and in some places was as high as a strong six on the agency’s seven-point “Shindo”, or Seismic Intensity Scale, which measures ground motion at specific points unlike magnitude which expresses the amount of energy released.

Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (Tepco) Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant was not affected by the quake, which hit 85 km ( 53 miles) northeast of the site. All of its seven reactors were already shut down, NHK said.

A Tepco spokesman said an initial inspection showed no damage to the plant, and inspectors would carry out more detailed checks.

The quake also temporarily halted express bullet train services in the region, with some roads also closed, according to NHK.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly, Elaine Lies, Linda Sieg, Takaya Yamaguchi and Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Catherine Evans and John Stonestreet)

Death toll from Philippine landslides, floods climbs to 85

Rescue workers carry a body bag containing remains of victims following a landslide at Cisolok district in Sukabumi, West Java province, Indonesia, January 1, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Picture taken January 1, 2019. Antara Foto/Nurul Ramadhan/ via REUTERS

MANILA (Reuters) – The death toll from landslides and devastating floods in the central Philippines triggered by a tropical depression climbed to 85, officials said on Wednesday, and 20 people were missing as rescuers slowly reached cut-off communities.

The casualties, including young children, were mostly killed when their homes collapsed in landslides after days of heavy rain in several provinces in the central Philippines, said Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the national disaster agency.

“If we don’t recover the missing or we recover them dead, that is 105 deaths, which we hope not,” Jalad said.

A resident carries his livestock following a landslide at Cisolok district in Sukabumi, West Java province, Indonesia, January 1, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Picture taken January 1, 2019. Antara Foto/Nurul Ramadhan/ via REUTERS

A resident carries his livestock following a landslide at Cisolok district in Sukabumi, West Java province, Indonesia, January 1, 2019 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Picture taken January 1, 2019. Antara Foto/Nurul Ramadhan/ via REUTERS

The tropical depression, which weakened into a low pressure system before leaving the Philippines on Sunday, brought heavy rain that triggered landslides and flooding in the Bicol and eastern Visayas regions.

Officials put three provinces under a “state of calamity” to give them access to emergency funds.

Bicol, with a population of 5.8 million, was the hardest hit, with 68 killed in intense rains and landslides. Damage to agriculture in Bicol, which produces rice and corn, was estimated at 342 million pesos ($6.5 million).

Rescuers, including the police and military, used heavy-lifting equipment to clear roads leading to landslide sites and entered flooded communities using rubber boats.

“The sun is already out, with occasional light rains. We hope floods will subside,” Ronna Monzon, a member of the operations personnel at the disaster agency in Bicol, told Reuters.

About 20 tropical cyclones hit the Philippines every year, with destroyed crops and infrastructure taking a toll on human lives and weighing down one of the fastest growing economies in Asia.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema; Editing by Paul Tait)

Indonesia’s latest tsunami raises global questions over disaster preparedness

Debris are seen after the tsunami damage at Sunda strait at Kunjir village in South Lampung, Indonesia, December 28, 2018. Antara Foto/Ardiansyah via REUTERS

By Fergus Jensen and Fanny Potkin

CIGONDONG/JAKARTA, Indonesia (Reuters) – As Indonesia reels from the carnage of yet another natural disaster, authorities around the globe are working on how they can prepare for the kind of freak tsunami that battered coasts west of Jakarta this month.

The Dec. 23 tsunami killed around 430 people along the coastlines of the Sunda Strait, capping a year of earthquakes and tsunamis in the vast archipelago, which straddles the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire.

No sirens were heard in those towns and beaches to alert people before the deadly series of waves hit shore.

Seismologists and authorities say a perfect storm of factors caused the tsunami and made early detection near impossible given the equipment in place.

But the disaster should be a wake-up call to step up research on tsunami triggers and preparedness, said several of the experts, some of whom have traveled to the Southeast Asian nation to investigate what happened.

“Indonesia has demonstrated to the rest of the world the huge variety of sources that have the potential to cause tsunamis. More research is needed to understand those less-expected events,” said Stephen Hicks, a seismologist at the University of Southampton.

Most tsunamis on record have been triggered by earthquakes. But this time it was an eruption of Anak Krakatau volcano that caused its crater to partially collapse into the sea at high tide, sending waves up to 5 meters (16 feet) high smashing into densely populated coastal areas on Java and Sumatra islands.

During the eruption, an estimated 180 million cubic meters, or around two-thirds of the less-than-100-year-old volcanic island, collapsed into the sea.

But the eruption didn’t rattle seismic monitors significantly, and the absence of seismic signals normally associated with tsunamis led Indonesia’s geophysics agency (BMKG) initially to tweet there was no tsunami.

Muhamad Sadly, head of geophysics at BMKG, later told Reuters its tidal monitors were not set up to trigger tsunami warnings from non-seismic events.

The head of Japan’s International Research Institute of Disaster, Fumihiko Imamura, told Reuters he did not believe Japan’s current warning system would have detected a tsunami like the one in the Sunda Strait.

“We still have some risks of this in Japan…because there’s 111 active volcanoes and low capacity to monitor eruptions generating a tsunami,” he said in Jakarta.

Scientists have long flagged the collapse of Anak Krakatau, around 155 km (100 miles) west of the capital, as a concern. A 2012 study published by the Geological Society of London deemed it a “tsunami hazard.”

Anak Krakatau has emerged from the Krakatoa volcano, which in 1883 erupted in one of the biggest explosions in recorded history, killing more than 36,000 people in a series of tsunamis and lowering the global surface temperature by one degree Celsius with its ash.

BROKEN WARNING SYSTEM

Some experts believe there was enough time for at least a partial detection of last week’s tsunami in the 24 minutes it took waves to hit land after the landslide on Anak Krakatau.

But a country-wide tsunami warning system of buoys connected to seabed sensors has been out of order since 2012 due to vandalism, neglect and a lack of public funds, authorities say.

“The lack of an early warning system is why Saturday’s tsunami was not detected,” said disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Nugroho, adding that of 1,000 tsunami sirens needed across Indonesia, only 56 are in place.

“Signs that a tsunami was coming weren’t detected and so people did not have time to evacuate.”

President Joko Widodo this week ordered BMKG to purchase new early warning systems, and the agency later said it planned to install three tsunami buoys on the islands surrounding Anak Krakatau.

The cost of covering the country is estimated at 7 trillion rupiah ($481.10 million). That is roughly equivalent to Indonesia’s total disaster response budget of 7.19 trillion rupiah for 2018, according to Nugroho.

But other experts say even if this network had been working, averting disaster would have been difficult.

“The tsunami was very much a worst-case scenario for any hope of a clear tsunami warning: a lack of an obvious earthquake to trigger a warning, shallow water, rough seabed, and the close proximity to nearby coastlines,” said seismologist Hicks.

In the Philippines, Renato Solidum, undersecretary for disaster risk reduction, said eruptions from the country’s Taal volcano had caused tsunami waves before in the surrounding Taal Lake.

He told Reuters that what happened in Indonesia showed the need to “re-emphasize awareness and preparedness” regarding volcanic activity and its potential to trigger tsunamis in the Philippines.

The United States has also suffered several tsunamis caused by volcanic activity, including in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington, according to the national weather service.

MORE EDUCATION

In Indonesia earlier this year, a double quake-and-tsunami disaster killed over 2,000 people on Sulawesi island, while at least 500 died when an earthquake flattened much of the northern coastline of the holiday island of Lombok.

In a country where, according to government data, 62.4 percent of the population is at risk of being struck by earthquakes and 1.6 percent by tsunamis, attention is now focused on a continued lack of preparedness.

“Given the potential for disasters in the country, it’s time to have disaster education be part of the national curriculum,” Widodo told reporters after the latest tsunami.

For Ramdi Tualfredi, a high school teacher who survived last week’s waves, these improvements cannot come soon enough.

He told Reuters that people in his village of Cigondong on the west coast of Java and close to Krakatau had never received any safety drills or evacuation training.

“I’ve never received education on safety steps,” he said.

“The system…totally failed.”

(Additional reporting by Wilda Asmarini, Tabita Diela, Bernadette Christina Munthe in Jakarta, Linda Sieg and Tanaka Kiyoshi in Tokyo, and Neil Jerome Morales in Manila.; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Volcano-triggered tsunami kills at least 43 in Indonesia, injures hundreds

Residents sit inside a mosque as they evacuated following high waves and the eruption of Anak Krakatau volcano at Labuan district in Pandeglang regency, Banten province, Indonesia, December 22, 2018 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Picture taken December 22, 2018. Antara Foto/Muhammad Bagus Khoirunas/ via REUTERS

By Jessica Damiana

JAKARTA (Reuters) – A tsunami killed at least 43 people on the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra and injured hundreds following an underwater landslide caused by a volcanic eruption, the disaster mitigation agency said on Sunday.

Some 584 people were injured and hundreds of homes and other buildings were “heavily damaged” in the tsunami which struck late on Saturday.

On Dec. 26 in 2004, an Indian Ocean tsunami triggered by an earthquake killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.

Endan Permana, head of the agency in Pandeglang, told Metro TV police were providing immediate assistance to victims in Tanjung Lesung in Banten province, a popular tourist getaway not far from the capital, Jakarta, as emergency workers had not arrived in the area yet.

“Many are missing,” Permana said.

The agency said it was still compiling information and there was a “possibility that data on the victims and damage will increase”.

The tsunami was caused by “an undersea landslide resulting from volcanic activity on Anak Krakatau” and was exacerbated by abnormally high tide because of the current full moon, disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

According to a statement from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG), Krakatau erupted at just after 9 p.m. and the tsunami struck at around 9.30 p.m. on Saturday.

“The tsunami hit several areas of the Sunda Strait, including beaches in Pandeglang regency, Serang, and South Lampung,” the agency said.

Nugroho told Metro TV that tsunamis triggered by volcanic eruptions were “rare” and that the Sunda Strait tsunami had not resulted from an earthquake.

“There was no earthquake, and the Anak Krakatau eruption also wasn’t that big,” Nugroho told Metro TV, noting there were no “significant” seismic tremors to indicate a tsunami was coming.

The Krakatau eruption created a column of volcanic ash estimated to be up 500 meters high.

(Reporting by Gayatri Suroyo, Tabita Diela and Jessica Damiana; Writing by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Two dead in North Carolina landslide as Alberto no longer a storm

Subtropical Storm Alberto is pictured nearing the Florida Panhandle in this May 27, 2018 NASA handout photo. NASA/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Two people were killed after floods triggered a landslide in North Carolina, as Alberto was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone with diminished rainfall by the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) on Thursday.

Rescue workers found two bodies after being alerted late Wednesday that the landslide had destroyed a home in Boone, North Carolina, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, said Jeff Virginia, spokesman for Watauga County Emergency Management.

Local media reported that heavy rains caused the landslide which triggered a gas explosion.

Video images posted to Twitter by the Boone Police Department showed an apparently charred home reduced to rubble.

Alberto has becomes a post-tropical cyclone as it attempts to exit northeastern lower Michigan, and a heavy rainfall threat is fading near its center, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its latest advisory.

The system is located about 20 miles (30 km) west south-west of Alpena, Michigan with maximum sustained winds of 30 miles per hour (45 km/h), the weather forecaster said.

“Flash flood watches remain in effect for the western Carolinas, northwest Virginia, and far eastern west Virginia,” the NHC added.

(Reporting by Arpan Varghese and Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru, and Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Toby Chopra and Bernadette Baum)

Landslides kill 26 in storm-hit Philippine province

A general view shows search, retrieval, and relief operations ongoing at the flooded areas at Tzu Chi Village in Barangay Liloan, Phillipines, December 17, 2017 in this picture obtained from social media. ORMOC CITY POLICE OFFICE/via REUTERS

MANILA (Reuters) – At least 26 people were killed while several residents were missing in an island province in central Philippines after tropical storm Kai-tak brought heavy rains that triggered landslides, local authorities and media said on Sunday.

Kai-tak cut power supplies in many areas, forced the cancellation of several flights, stranded more than 15,000 people in various ports in the region and prompted nearly 88,000 people to seek shelter in evacuation centers.

An aerial shot shows an impassable Caraycaray Bridge after it was destroyed when Typhoon Kai-tak, locally name Urduja, ravaged Biliran Province, Philippines December 18, 2017. Malacanang Presidential Photo/Handout via REUTERS

An aerial shot shows an impassable Caraycaray Bridge after it was destroyed when Typhoon Kai-tak, locally name Urduja, ravaged Biliran Province, Philippines December 18, 2017. Malacanang Presidential Photo/Handout via REUTERS

The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office of Biliran island said 26 residents had died, but the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has yet to make any official announcement about fatalities.

Biliran Governor Gerardo Espina Jr confirmed the deaths in an interview with DZMM radio, with 23 people still missing, he said.

“We received reports of three deaths coming from the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) but these are for confirmation,” said NDRRMC spokeswoman Romina Marasigan. “We are still trying to check the others.”

Many areas were flooded, damaging crops and infrastructure.

Kai-tak has weakened to a tropical depression after barrelling through the eastern region of Visayas on Saturday, hitting islands and coastal towns such as Tacloban City where supertyphoon Haiyan claimed 8,000 lives in 2013.

Locally known as Urduja, Kai-tak was packing winds of 55 kilometers (31 miles) per hour with gusts of up to 80 km/h, according to a weather bureau bulletin issued at 2000 GMT.

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz, editing by David Evans)

Vietnam braces for typhoon Khanun after floods kill 72

A boy paddles a boat past a flooded village's gate after a heavy rain caused by a tropical depression in Hanoi, Vietnam October 16, 2017.

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam braced for typhoon Khanun on Monday after destructive floods battered the country’s north and center last week, killing 72 people, the disaster prevention agency said.

Last week’s floods were the worst in years, the government and state-run Vietnam Television said, with thousands of homes submerged. Another 200 houses collapsed and several towns remain cut off by the floodwater.

The floods also damaged more than 22,000 hectares (54,300 acres) of rice.

Farmers harvest rice on a flooded field after a heavy rainfall caused by a tropical depression in Ninh Binh province, Vietnam October 14, 2017.

Farmers harvest rice on a flooded field after a heavy rainfall caused by a tropical depression in Ninh Binh province, Vietnam October 14, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

Vietnam is the world’s third-largest exporter of rice and the second-biggest producer of coffee, although the floods have not affected the Southeast Asian nation’s coffee belt.

Eighteen people from the hardest-hit province of Hoa Binh in the north were buried by a landslide, but only thirteen bodies have been found, Vietnam’s disaster agency said.

The government has said it is fixing dykes, dams and roads damaged by last week’s flood and is preparing for typhoon Khanun, which is expected to cause heavy rain in northern and central Vietnam from Monday.

It has also warned ships and boats to avoid the approaching typhoon.

Vietnam is prone to destructive storms and flooding due to its long coastline. A typhoon wreaked havoc across central provinces last month.

Floods have also affected nine out of 77 provinces in Thailand, Vietnam’s neighbor to the west. Three people had been killed in flooding since last Tuesday, Thailand’s disaster agency said on Monday.

The Thai capital, Bangkok, was hit by heavy rain at the weekend, with gridlocked traffic bringing parts of the city to a standstill. Bangkok has often been described as the “Venice of the East” because of its many waterways.

However, the floods prompted criticism of Bangkok’s city government, with some social media users accusing authorities of not managing water levels in canals properly.

The city government defended itself, saying it was working closely with the irrigation department. Thailand suffered its worst flood in five decades in 2011, with hundreds of people killed, industrial estates engulfed and key industries crippled.

 

(Reporting by Mai Nguyen in HANOI; Additional reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Panarat Thepgumpanat in BANGKOK; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Paul Tait)

 

Death toll from worst Vietnam floods in years rises to 54

Death toll from worst Vietnam floods in years rises to 54

HANOI (Reuters) – At least 54 people died and 39 went missing as destructive floods battered northern and central Vietnam this week, the disaster prevention agency said on Friday.

Vietnam is prone to destructive storms and flooding due to its long coastline. A typhoon wrecked havoc across central provinces just last month.

The floods that hit Vietnam this week starting on Monday are the worst in years, state-run Vietnam Television quoted agriculture minister Nguyen Xuan Cuong as saying.

Nineteen people from four neighboring households in Hoa Binh were buried alive early on Thursday after a landslide struck around midnight on Wednesday, but only nine bodies have been found, the disaster agency said in a report.

Some 317 homes have collapsed in floods and landslides this week, while more than 34,000 other houses have been submerged or damaged.

More than 22,000 hectares (54,300 acres) of rice have also been damaged and around 180,000 animals killed or washed away.

Floods have also affected seven of 77 provinces in Thailand, Vietnam’s neighbor to the west, that country’s Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation said on Thursday.

More than 480,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) of agricultural land Thailand have been hit, the department said.

A couple watches TV in their flooded house after a tropical depression in Hanoi, Vietnam October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

A couple watches TV in their flooded house after a tropical depression in Hanoi, Vietnam October 13, 2017. REUTERS/Kham

(Reporting by Mi Nguyen; Editing by Tom Hogue)

Villagers begin to mourn dead after deadly China landslide

Relatives of victims react at the site of a landslide in the village of Xinmo, Mao County, Sichuan Province, China June 26, 2017.

By Sue-Lin Wong

XINMO, China (Reuters) – Villagers in China visited what used to be their relatives’ homes on Monday to mourn loved ones lost when a landslide swept down a mountain, with little hope of finding anyone alive after more than 48 hours of fruitless searching.

At least 93 people are missing after the landslide engulfed Xinmo village in mountainous Sichuan province as dawn broke on Saturday. Ten people have been confirmed dead.

“Our house was somewhere around here but everything has been destroyed beyond recognition,” said a middle aged woman, one of a few residents who were away when disaster struck, after she pulled a green blanket she recognised out of the mud and rocks.

Rescue workers carry a victim at the site of a landslide that occurred in Xinmo Village, Mao County, Sichuan province, China, June 25, 2017.

Rescue workers carry a victim at the site of a landslide that occurred in Xinmo Village, Mao County, Sichuan province, China, June 25, 2017. China Daily via REUTERS

The government has sent some 3,000 rescuers, along with heavy digging equipment, and has promised to do all it can to look for survivors.

Heavy rain triggered the landslide, authorities have said.

Some villagers said they’ve always known landslides are a big danger but authorities never offered to help them move.

With danger of more landslides, authorities have been restricting access to the disaster zone, but hundreds of people were allowed back on Monday.

Mournful wails and firecracker explosions echoed through Xinmo’s steep valley as bereaved relatives returned, many clutching snacks and wrapped in plastic and bottles of wine as offerings for the dead.

Some people burned paper money and lit incense which, along with setting off fireworks, are traditional acts of mourning.

“Every single family has been impacted by the landslide, it’s horrible,” said Sun Danxian, from a neighbouring village who was walking through the site.

The government of Mao county, where the village is located, posted on Monday drone video footage of the area showing about dozen mechanical diggers shifting through a landscape of grey rocks.

‘LYING FOR THREE DAYS’

Earlier on Monday, about 100 villagers, unhappy with what they said was limited information, met government officials at a nearby primary school, insisting they had to get to Xinmo.

They also voiced fears about the possibility of rebuilding homes before winter and what would happened to orphans.

“These government officials have been lying to us for three days,” a middle aged man from Xinmo, with several missing relatives told Reuters. He declined to give his name.

“They told us we could go back yesterday morning but they kept delaying and delaying giving us all kinds of excuses. They told us a central government official was going to come to visit us. He showed up and didn’t even bother to speak to us.”

Another relative said the government should have moved them out of an area they knew was prone to landslides.

“There have been landslides before but no one has ever suggested we move. The government knows it’s dangerous to live in these kinds of villages and yet they do nothing,” said the elderly man, who also would not provide his name.

The official China Daily cited Xu Qiang, a disaster expert at the Ministry of Land and Resources, as saying large-scale relocations in the area were difficult.

“Many of the villagers have been living here for generations and have seen no major geological disasters,” Xu said. “This is their home and livelihood and it is very difficult to convince them to leave, specially when you only have a hypothesis and predictions.”

Sichuan province is also prone to earthquakes, including an 8.0 magnitude tremor in central Sichuan’s Wenchuan county in 2008 that killed nearly 70,000 people.

Mao county is next to Wenchuan. State media said the mountainside that collapsed onto the village had been weakened by the 2008 earthquake.

Most residents of the area are poor farmers of the Qiang ethnic minority and the area is the target of a poverty alleviation project, according to government officials.

(Writing by Ben Blanchard and Christian Shepherd; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)