08/09/2010, 00.00
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Rescue work difficult for 1300 missing in river of mud in Zhouqu

Army, police and firefighters mobilised. Unsafe roads make it difficult for machines and excavators to arrive. Wen Jiabao visits the affected area. A lake formed by debris is likely to produce another river of mud.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At least 6 000 people among the army, police and firefighters have been desperately working since last night to recover persons missing or buried by the river of mud that has invaded and destroyed Zhouqu County (Gansu).

At least 1,300 people are missing and about 50,000 have fled to safety in other areas. The river of mud created by the torrential rains in recent weeks, with a depth of one to four meters, has buried entire areas, destroyed houses, rendered roads unusable, hampering the arrival of  machines and excavators. People are digging in the mud looking for survivors using their bare hands or shovels.

Geologists and bomb technicians are studying how to empty a lake that was created because of debris and landslides. With the rains that are expected in the next 24 hours there is a risk that a new river of mud invades the area downstream.

Yesterday Premier Wen Jiabao visited the area and promised aid and comfort to survivors. Two-thirds of the county has no electricity. The Finance Ministry has earmarked 500 million yuan (about 55.6 million euros) for the emergency in the region. The Ministry of Agriculture has sent protective material and disinfectants: there is a large number of livestock in the area - where many Tibetan nomads living – raising fears of the spread of epidemics caused by dead animals.

In recent weeks, heavy rains in China have caused disasters in Shaanxi, Sichuan, Hubei and Anhui, with1,250 deaths and damage estimated at over 14 billion euro.

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