Landslide buries mountain village in Soutwest China, fears for 141 people

BEIJING (Reuters) - Fears grew for 141 people missing in China after a landslide buried their mountain village in southwestern Sichuan province on Saturday, with reports that only three survivors had been pulled out of the mud and rock hours after the calamity struck.

The landslide swept over 46 homes as dawn broke at around 6 a.m. in Xinmo village in Maoxian county, a remote mountainous area of North Sichuan close to the region of Tibet, according to the official Xinhua state news agency.

Images from the scene:

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People search for survivors at the site of a landslide in Xinmo Village, Mao County, Sichuan province, China June 24, 2017. China Daily via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA.
People search for survivors at the site of a landslide that destroyed some 40 households, where more than 100 people are feared to be buried, local media reports, in Xinmo Village, Sichuan Province, China June 24, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA.
People search for survivors at the site of a landslide that destroyed some 40 households, where more than 100 people are feared to be buried, local media reports, in Xinmo Village, Sichuan Province, China June 24, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA.
Rescue workers work at the site of a landslide that destroyed some 40 households, where more than 100 people are feared to be buried, according to local media reports, in Xinmo Village, China June 24, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Rescue personnel work at the site of a landslide that destroyed some 40 households, where more than 100 people are feared to be buried, according to local media reports, in Xinmo Village, China June 24, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA.
People search for survivors at the site of a landslide that destroyed some 40 households, where more than 100 people are feared to be buried, according to local media reports, in Xinmo Village, China June 24, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA.
MAOXIAN, CHINA - JUNE 24: Rescuers work on the site of a massive landslide where over 100 villagers are estimated buried in the early morning disaster on June 24, 2017 in Maoxian, China. PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Images London-T:+44 207 033 1031 E:hello@barcroftmedia.com - New York-T:+1 212 796 2458 E:hello@barcroftusa.com - New Delhi-T:+91 11 4053 2429 E:hello@barcroftindia.com www.barcroftimages.com (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
CORRECTION - Chinese military police and rescue workers are seen at the site of a landslide in in Xinmo village, Diexi town of Maoxian county, Sichuan province on June 24, 2017. Around 100 people are feared buried after a landslide smashed through their village in southwest China's Sichuan Province early Saturday, local officials said, as they launched an emergency rescue operation. / AFP PHOTO / STR / China OUT / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by STR has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [Maoxian] instead of [Maoxiang]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
CORRECTION - Chinese military police and rescue workers are seen at the site of a landslide in in Xinmo village, Diexi town of Maoxian county, Sichuan province on June 24, 2017. Around 100 people are feared buried after a landslide smashed through their village in southwest China's Sichuan Province early Saturday, local officials said, as they launched an emergency rescue operation. / AFP PHOTO / STR / China OUT / The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by STR has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [Maoxian] instead of [Maoxiang]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require. (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
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President Xi Jinping urged on the rescue effort, but state broadcaster CCTV reported that by midday the only people rescued were a couple and their two-month-old baby.

Xinhua said the estimated number of missing was provided by local authorities.

The landslide blocked a two-kilometer (1.24 miles) stretch of a nearby river and 1.6 kilometers of road, according to Xinhua.

State television reports showed villagers and rescuers scrambling over mounds of mud and rocks that had slid down the mountainside. Xinhua said there were 400 people involved in the rescue effort and 6 ambulances were at the scene, and more were on their way.

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The television images showed water thick with mud flowing over the site, submerging a car pushed from the road, while police and residents pulled on ropes to try to dislodge large boulders.

Police have closed roads in the county to all traffic except emergency services, the news agency said.

There is an extensive network of dams in the region, including two hydropower plants in Diexi town near the buried village.

A researcher from the Chengdu Chinese Academy of Social Science, a state-backed think tank, told China Radio International that heavy rainfall probably caused the slide. The researcher, whose name wasn't given, also warned of the risk that a dam could collapse, endangering communities further downstream.

The area is prone to earthquakes, including one in 1933 that resulted in parts of Diexi town becoming submerged by a nearby lake, and an 8.0 magnitude tremor in central Sichuan's Wenchuan county in 2008 that killed nearly 70,000 people.

(Reporting by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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