2017-08-28 09:40:11

A village in southwestern China was hit by a landslide on Monday, resulting in at least 17 people dead, eight injured, and 34 buried homes, reported state news agency Xinhua. An additional 18 people remain unaccounted for.

The landslide happened Monday morning at around 11 a.m. in Pusa Villa, nestled in the mountains of Nayong County near Bijie, a city in Guizhou province. According to witnesses’ cellphone videos, the face of the mountain collapsed over a span of about 30 seconds, sending an enormous cloud of dust and debris into the air.

Local resident Chen Ji, 23, told The Beijing News on Tuesday that for the last two years, rocks have been falling from the mountains regularly — so regularly, in fact, that he said it at first “seemed normal,” and he didn’t worry, when they began to fall on Monday morning.

Another resident surnamed Qiu who lives about a kilometer away from the site of the landslide told a social media account affiliated with Beijing Youth Daily that in July, there was a smaller landslide that lasted around 10 seconds. But because no one was hurt and no houses were damaged, authorities only put up a sign to warn passersby and didn’t evacuate or relocate any of the villagers.

“The village committee and the police began monitoring the stone-falling situation at the foot of the mountain last month,” said another resident, referring to the earlier, smaller landslide. “But they left after 20 days passed with no further activity.” According to Beijing Youth Daily’s report, heavy rain fell on the village for two days before the disaster.

Guizhou is one of China’s poorest provinces. A volunteer surnamed Liu who visited the region for a poverty alleviation project earlier this month told Sixth Tone that most of the families she met in Nayong County consisted of left-behind children — whose parents have migrated elsewhere for work — being cared for by elderly guardians, usually grandparents. “When we drove through the mountains, the condition of the roads was awful,” she said.

Local authorities have dispatched rescue workers to the site of the disaster, along with tents and folding beds.

In the winter of 2004, Zuojiaying Village, located 10 kilometers from Pusa in the same county, was hit by a landslide that killed over 40 people. While an official investigation determined that the disaster occurred naturally, victims and anonymous officials told a local newspaper that they blamed nearby mining activity. In 2015, torrential rainfall caused another landslide in Zuojiaying Village that resulted in two deaths.

This article has been updated to include recent developments.

Contributions: Fan Liya; editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: A rescue worker surveys fallen rocks and boulders after a landslide near Bijie, Guizhou province, Aug. 28, 2017. Li Nian/VCG)