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Mudslides bring misery to Yunnan province of China

Following the huge landslide which buried the town of Zhouqu in Gansu province over a week ago, leaving over 1,200 people dead or many hundreds more missing, a town in southwest China has been struck by another mudslide.

The town of Puladi was hit on Wednesday. Puladi is situated in Gongshan county, a mountainous region of Yunnan province, which lies close to Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Tibet. Residents were trapped in their houses as they slept, when the mud struck the town at about 1.30 in the morning.

Over 1,000 people were evacuated and 67 people declared missing, most of them employees of Yujin Iron Mine and local villagers. Residents joined over 700 rescuers in searching for the missing. Following the rescue operation, 38 injured people were retrieved and 61 people who were trapped rescued.

The village of Litoudi, about 10 kilometres from Puladi, was also struck by the mud, which destroyed roads, power suppliers and telecommunications systems, as well as a key bridge over the Nujiang river. The river flows from the mountains and according to the Yunnan Provincial Emergency Response Office, water levels had risen by 6 metres following the recent torrential rains. Last month, a landslide killed eleven workers on the construction site of a hydro-electric power station in Puladi.

Landslides are a regular hazard in southwest China. In 2008, over fifty people were killed in Yunnan Province by mudslides. This latest disaster is estimated to have cost the region 16 million dollars in economic losses. Many people will need financial assistance to rebuild their homes and livelihoods, though at this stage it is uncertain where this help will come from.

According to the National Meteorological Centre, the risk of further landslides is great, as rain continues to bring misery across China. The number of deaths caused by this current spate of severe weather is the highest China has recorded since 1998. State media have stated that over 300 million people have now been affected across China and damage is estimated to total around 1.7 billion dollars. The Chinese Ministry of Finance has already promised 74 million dollars in emergency aid. This money will go towards providing immediate assistance and temporary shelters to families who have been left homeless.

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