The death toll in northwest China has risen above 1,100 as rescuers recover hundreds of bodies from the mud and debris of a devastating mudslide.
Authorities on Tuesday said 1,117 people are confirmed dead in Gansu province, most in the town of Zhouqu, where 10,000 soldiers and rescuers are digging through a sea of mud. The number of missing has dropped to 627 from more than 1,000 as more bodies are recovered.
Several days of heavy rains are forecast, sparking fears of more landslides similar to Sunday's disaster. However, local officials are quoted saying they have reduced the size of an artificial lake created by mud and debris blocking the nearby Bailong River, easing the danger of a catastrophic dambreak.
Emergency crews are also scrambling to prevent an outbreak of disease due to a lack of clean water and sanitation. Authorities have established a makeshift morgue in the area.
The official Xinhua news agency said a river of mud 5 kilometers long and 500 meters wide runs through the center of Zhouqu.
A government official (Minister of Land and Resources Xu Shaoshi) said the disaster resulted from heavy rains, destabilization caused by a 2008 earthquake in nearby Sichuan, and sustained drought and soil erosion. Others said the surrounding hills have been left bare by years of timber cutting.
The Gansu mudslide is the deadliest single incident in weeks of flooding that has killed at least 1,900 people across China this year. The damage runs into the tens of billions of dollars, affecting 28 provinces and regions.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP