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Four People Dead, 53 Missing in China Landslide.

(AFP) - July 23, 2009

BEIJING - Four people were killed and 53 remained missing after heavy rains triggered a landslide in a remote and mountainous area of southwest China on Thursday, the government said.

The victims were construction labourers who had been working on a dam in Kangding county, an area traditionally populated by ethnic Tibetans in Sichuan province, according to a statement on the civil affairs ministry's website.

The state-run Xinhua news agency said the disaster occurred at 3:00 am and also blocked a local river, causing a lake to build up behind the rubble.

Three other people were injured and 97 "trapped," the ministry said.

However, Xinhua reported that those trapped had been rescued.

"The heavy rains yesterday and today caused the landslides," said an official at the emergency headquarters of the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, where Kangding is located.

He refused to give his name to AFP.

According to China National Radio, a stretch of highway nearly three kilometres (two miles) long was engulfed by the landslide, while electricity to the area was cut and communications disrupted.

The 97 stranded people were halfway up a mountainside overlooking the river and mudslide, it said.

With the weather improving throughout Thursday, the chances of safely evacuating the stranded people were good, it said.

According to the civil affairs ministry, the workers were building the Changhe hydroelectric dam on the Dadu river when the landslide occurred.

The 12.7 billion yuan (1.8 billion dollar) project is being built for the Datang Group, a state-run power company, according to the dam's website run by Sinohydro, China's largest dam builder.

It was not immediately clear if the project was damaged in the landslide.

Sichuan province was rocked in May 2008 by a massive 8.0-magnitude earthquake that triggered huge landslides across the region's mountainous terrain. Nearly 87,000 people were left dead or missing.

Copyright 2009 AFP.

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