The death toll rose to 36 on Monday, with 47 still missing, following the huge landslide that engulfed workers’ tents at a copper and gold mine in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.
Hundreds of rescuers used their hands, metal poles, excavators and sniffer dogs to search debris for a fourth day on Monday, but officials held little hope of finding anyone alive under the estimated 2 million cubic metres of mud and rubble.
Only one miner, Zhao Linjiang, survived the disaster because he had visited a nearby village to buy more tents, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Zhao was shocked when he returned on Friday morning to find the miners’ camp obliterated by rock and mud that spread over an area up to 3 kilometres wide.
He told the agency he saw no sign of his colleagues, including his brother.
“I was numbed by the scene and trudged back and forth, crying,” Zhao said.
Some 3,500 searchers were deployed at the site, using 300 mechanical excavators, reports said.
A mudslide immediately after the landslide and smaller landslides since Friday had hampered rescue efforts, while several rescuers suffered altitude sickness at the 4,600-metre site, team members told state media.
Most of the 83 people buried by the landslide were migrant workers from the poor south-western provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan.
The miners were employed by the Tibet Huatailong Mining Development Company, a subsidiary of the state-run China National Gold Group, which had mined the area since 2010.