ZHOUQU, China – Heavy rains lashed a remote section of northwestern China as the death toll from weekend flooding that triggered massive landslides jumped to 1,117, although the fading hopes of rescuers got a boost late Wednesday when a survivor was found in the debris.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency gave no immediate details on the survivor, found nearly four days after the disaster struck. Earlier Wednesday, a 50-year-old man was rescued who had been trapped in knee-deep mud on the second floor of a hotel, Xinhua said.
Local officials were cited as saying at least 627 people were still missing.
The National Meteorological Center warned there was a “relatively large” chance of more landslides in the coming days, as heavier rain was expected, with up to 3 1/2 inches (90 millimeters) forecast for Friday.
Troops and rescue teams, joined by traumatized survivors, were increasingly turning to recovering bodies and seeing to the needs of the living. Clean drinking water was a primary concern, with most local sources destroyed or too polluted to use.
Entire communities in Gansu province’s Zhouqu district were swallowed when the debris-choked Bailong River jumped its banks early Sunday, releasing wave after wave of mud and rubble-strewn water. While torrential rains were the direct cause, tree cutting that left the dry hills exposed and the weakening of cliff faces by a massive 2008 earthquake were seen as contributing factors.
Buildings were torn from their foundations, their lower floors blown out by the force of the debris-laden water. Three villages comprising hundreds of households were entirely buried and much of the county seat was submerged.