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13 Killed, 59 Missing in Sichuan Landslides

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Zhang Cheng felt lucky he did not take a nap as usual when the landslide destroyed his home in Nanyue Village in Dujiangyan, Sichuan Province, on Friday.

"Because of the downpour, I became sleepless and fled in good time when a large mass of the landslide came down from the surrounding mountains," the 74-year-old told China Daily.

But not everyone was as fortunate as the old farmer. Landslides caused by heavy rain since Thursday had killed 13 people and left 59 people missing in Sichuan as of Sunday.

Nearly 500,000 people are affected and more than 20,000 have been evacuated in the province, according to the emergency response office of the Sichuan provincial government.

The first landslide struck Qingping township in Mianzhu, a city in northern Sichuan, on Thursday evening after heavy rain.

"The rainfall amounted to 220 millimeters within two hours. As the township's only highway leading to the outside was blocked, more than 5,400 villagers were stranded," said Luo Yingguang, an information officer in the city.

"Thanks to timely rescue efforts by the local government and Chengdu Military Area Command, only nine villagers died, five are still missing, the rest were evacuated the next day," he said.

The downpour which struck Dujiangyan, a city battered in the magnitude-8.0 earthquake on May 12, 2008, killed one villager and stranded more than 5,000 people in the city's mountainous Longchi town and Hongkou township after it induced a landslide.

"The evacuees live in nearby schools and the government tries its best to make life easier for them in the makeshift shelter," said Wang Jin, deputy mayor of Dujiangyan.

Zhou Cheng'an, a middle-aged farmer, was one of some 1,000 evacuees staying in the Juyuan Vocation School.

"We have porridge for breakfast and meat and vegetables for lunch and supper," he told China Daily.

Nearly 40 people were missing after rain-triggered landslides devastated Dujiangyan's neighboring Wenchuan county in western Sichuan Province early Saturday.

A 200-meter section of National Highway 213, the only highway linking Wenchuan, whose Yingxiu town was the epicenter of the earthquake on May 12, 2008, to the provincial capital Chengdu, was inundated with water four meters deep.

In Yinxing township, Wenchuan, two barrier lakes each containing 4 million cubic meters of water were formed by the landslide in sections of the Minjiang River, a tributary of the Yangtze River in its upper reaches.

Nearly 10,000 people had been evacuated from villages around the barrier lakes, said Ren Lu, an information officer in Wenchuan.

According to Chen Kefu, deputy chief of the Sichuan provincial department of civil affairs, the landslides damaged some 24,000 homes and 17,000 hectares of crops. Direct economic losses were about 1 billion yuan (US$147 million).

(China Daily August 16, 2010)

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