GONGSHAN, Yunnan, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- Rescuers are racing to search for 80 people still missing three days after rain-triggered mudslides hit a remote mountain town in southwest China's Yunnan Province, killing at least 12.
By 7 p.m. Friday, rescuers had recovered six more bodies, bringing the death toll to 12, said Hou Xinrong, deputy head of the Drung-Nu Autonomous County of Gongshan, which administers Puladi Township where the mudslides occurred.
Hampered by the mountain terrain and persistent rainfall, the rescue efforts had been progressing slowly, Hou said. "Excavators can't proceed to the site and mountain torrents could be triggered at any time due to the downpours."
Most of the missing people are employees of the Yujin Iron Mine and residents of Puladi, where the mudslides struck at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Around Friday noon, a Xinhua reporter saw several soldiers digging in the debris with spades, hoes and sometimes their bare hands in hardest-hit Litoudi Village.
"We've found a body here, but it was stuck in the mud. We have to be gentle to ensure the integrity of the body," said Yang Pingang, an officer with the Yunnan Provincial Military Area Command. "We want to show our respects to the deceased."
Although wearing gauze masks, soldiers still could not help becoming occasionally ill.
"The rescuers are at risk of sinking into the mud any time," Yang said.
"The task is dangerous, but I am not feeling tired. Although the victims had a slim chance of survival, we'll spare no efforts to find their bodies for their beloved family members," said rescuer Cao Dashuai.
Yu Yongzhi, a 36-year-old foreman at the Yujin Iron Mine, which was leveled by the mudslides, has been busy searching for his fellow workers and comforting family members of the victims.
Yu survived the disaster but 12 of his fellow workers were instantly buried in front of him. "I introduced most of them into the mine. I am responsible for them and their families as well," Yu said.
"It's possible that my efforts won't bear any results. But if I fail to try my best, I won't live up to their family," he said.
The local government has set up two settlement centers in the township, accommodating hundreds of homeless villagers.
The mudslides, which occurred 8 km above the middle reaches of the Dongyuegu River, a tributary of the Nujiang River, brought down some 600,000 cubic meters of mud and rocks.
In Zhouqu County of northwestern Gansu Province, massive mudslides also triggered by torrential rains claimed 1,407 lives as of 4 p.m. Friday and 358 others remained missing.
China has been plagued this summer by the worst floods in at least a decade. This year's floods and other rain-triggered disasters have left at least 2,300 people dead and 1,200 missing nationwide.
In Sichuan Province, which neighbors Gansu, 16 people have been killed and 66 remain missing following this week's rain-triggered floods and mudslides.