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China landslide death toll raised to 254: state media

China province governor resigns over deadly landslide: report
The governor of north China's Shanxi province stepped down Sunday over a landslide that killed at least 254, the second time he has fallen from grace over a major scandal. The resignation of 59-year-old Meng Xuenong, who previously was forced out of his job as mayor of Beijing over the SARS debacle, was accepted by the Shanxi provincial legislature Sunday afternoon, Xinhua news agency said. "The management of the local government and the relevant departments was incompetent," said state television, citing preliminary findings of an investigative task force under the Cabinet. Meng, seen as a close ally of President Hu Jintao, is the most senior official to lose his job over the disaster that hit the town of Taoshi Monday, when a mining waste reservoir burst its banks and engulfed the community of 1,000. State media Thursday quoted Minister of Work Safety Wang Jun as saying "several hundred" people were thought still buried in the mud that swamped Taoshi. As the top leader of Shanxi, Meng had to take ultimate responsibility for what had happened, according to state television. Shanxi vice governor Zhang Jianmin was also removed from his post at Sunday's session in the provincial legislature, state television said.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Sept 14, 2008
The death toll from a landslide that engulfed a northern Chinese town jumped to 254 on Saturday with the discovery of dozens more bodies, state-run Xinhua news agency said, citing local authorities.

State media on Thursday had quoted Minister of Work Safety Wang Jun saying "several hundred" people were thought still buried in the mud that swamped the town of Taoshi after a mining waste reservoir burst its banks on Monday.

Xinhua's latest death toll report said rescuers had now combed through 90 percent of the affected area, but said it could take several more days to search two channels where residents believe more victims could be buried.

Search work was continuing, with more than 1,000 rescuers involved, the report said, adding that power and phone lines in the area have been restored.

"This is the toughest phase of the ongoing rescue," Xinhua quoted Lian Zhendong, chief of the rescue headquarters, as saying. "But we will do our utmost to finish the search in three to five days."

So far, 128 victims have been identified, the report said.

The death toll stood at 178 on Friday. The latest report offered no estimate of a potential final death toll.

Xinhua had previously said that 35 people were injured in the disaster.

The torrent of sludge buried a village of 1,000 people, including a market that was packed with people attending a "major fair," the China Daily reported Thursday, citing witnesses.

The mud appeared to be more than six metres (20 feet) deep in some places, according to an AFP reporter at the scene earlier this week.

China's national work safety administration said an illegal mine above the town had kept the tailing pond full of ore dregs, which burst its banks after heavy rain.

State media reports said that the mining reservoir was decommissioned in the 1980s, and was put back into use only recently after a new owner took over the mine and restarted iron ore processing.

Its safety certificate was revoked in 2006.

Police have detained 13 people associated with the illegal mine, including its boss, Zhang Peiliang, 52, local authorities said Thursday.

The Communist Party secretary, another ranking party official, the mayor of Taoshi, the head of Xiangfen county and two work safety officials have been sacked over the disaster, state press reported.

Xinhua said late Saturday that initial estimates indicated the mudslide has caused 9.18 million yuan (1.34 million dollars) in economic losses.

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Hopes fade for 'several hundred' missing in China landslide
Xiangfen, China (AFP) Sept 11, 2008
Several hundred people believed missing after a landslide engulfed a Chinese town are likely dead, state press said Thursday, citing a senior official, as the official toll rose to 151.

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