Mudslide Envelops Hydro Construction Site
Hundreds of rescuers assembled to search for the missing after a landslide swept through a hydropower plant construction site in southeast China.
At least 41 people were reported missing immediately after a flood of rocks and mud pushed into the workers’ riverside camp around 5 a.m. Sunday (May 8) in Fujian Province’s Taining County, multiple sources stated.
According to reports, extremely heavy rains are blamed for sending at least 100,000 cubic meters (about 328,000 cubic feet) of rocks and mud downhill, burying a temporary building on the site and damaging the construction offices.
Chinese president Xi Jinping ordered “maximum efforts” to locate survivors, national news agency Xinhua reported the night of the event.
At the time, 13 workers, said to be in stable condition, were being treated at a local hospital, officials said.
By the following day, 31 bodies had been recovered, and 7 were still counted as missing, the Chinese government reported via its news portal Monday (May 9).
Hydropower Plant Construction
Numerous reports indicate the laborers were at work on an extension of the Chitan hydropower station, an affiliate of Huadian Fuxin Energy Limited Company.
The project, overseen by Sinohydro Bureau 16 Co. Ltd and Sinohydro Bureau 12 Co. Ltd, began in November 2015. It is slated for completion by August 2017.
During a press conference reporting on the incident, officials were asked if locating the power plant, built in 1980, in the mountainous area was a mistake, the Los Angeles Times indicated.
Li Lixin, general manager of Huadian Fuxin Energy Corp., however, pointed out that no accidents had occurred in the past 30 years.
“We chose the location strictly in accordance with the relevant requirements,” Lixin said. “The disaster was caused by the continuous heavy rains.”
Heavy Rains to Blame
Rainfall totals in Taining this year are said to be 35 percent higher than the historical average. In fact, in the 24-hour-period surrounding the landslide, parts of Taining saw up to 215.7 mm (about 8.5 inches) of rain, authorities said.
"It's been raining all the time over the past couple of days and I didn't think it was a big deal," said Deng Chunwu, one of the survivors. "But the rain last night was more fierce than ever."
Deng told the news site that he and his three roommates at the work camp survived the landslide by hiding underneath a support post. All four were sent to the hospital that morning, with one suffering critical injuries.
"We were still asleep when the mountains began to jolt very strongly and before we know it, sand and mud are flowing into our room," he said, adding that the slide pushed their quarters 10 meters (32.8 feet) from its original location.
By Sunday evening, approximately 600 rescuers, along with sniffer dogs and excavation equipment, were on site to search for the missing.
Seven workers were rescued alive, with injuries including broken bones, and later that night searchers detected suspected signs of life in three areas, The Tapei Times reported.
Officials warn the heavy rains are likely to get worse.
According to China’s state flood control authority, the country is at risk of massive flooding this year as a result of the strongest El Niño climate pattern since 1998, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In 1998, the flooding reportedly lasted two months and killed more than 3,000 people.
On Sunday, the Yangtze River’s Three Gorges Dam recorded an inflow of 17,800 cubic meters (about 58,400 cubic feet) per second, the highest since 1992, authorities said.