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China landslide death toll hits 20 with some 24 missing

The death toll from a landslide that struck a remote and mountainous part of southwestern China reached 20 on Tuesday, state media said, as rescuers raced to find those still trapped under the debris.

The pre-dawn landslide buried 18 homes and sparked the evacuation of more than 200 people when it struck in Zhenxiong County in Yunnan province early Monday.

More than 30 hours since the disaster, 20 people hade been confirmed dead, state broadcaster CCTV said.

Chinese military personnel search for missing victims following a landslide in southwestern China's Yunnan province on January 22, 2024. AFP via Getty Images

Twenty-four remained missing, the report added.

State news agency Xinhua said rescue workers were in a "race against time" to find the missing after a night of sub-zero temperatures.

"Search and rescue efforts persisted through the night," firefighter Li Shenglong told Xinhua.

Wu Junyao, director of the natural resources and planning bureau of Zhaotong, told Xinhua the disaster "resulted from a collapse in the steep cliff area atop the slope."

Two hundred rescue workers have been dispatched to the scene as well as dozens of fire engines and other equipment.

The site is covered in thick snow and rescuers are "using all kinds of tools to search for survivors", Xinhua reported.

A rescuer searches for missing victims following a landslide in southwestern China's Yunnan province on January 22, 2024.  AFP via Getty Images

Wu said the rescuers were digging through collapsed debris of "100 meters in width, 60 meters in height, with an average thickness of around 6 meters".

CCTV showed footage of rescue workers digging through twisted metal and concrete overnight in a bid to find survivors.

Other CCTV footage showed locals huddling for warmth around a fire in a shelter, eating instant noodles.

People from the surrounding area have chipped in to to help with relief efforts, state media said.

"Our main focus is on distributing supplies, cooking, and delivering food to those in need," Hong Jie, a 38-year-old resident of a nearby village, told Xinhua.

Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered "all-out" rescue efforts on Monday.

Chinese military personnel and rescue workers arrive to conduct a search and rescue operation following a landslide in southwestern China's Yunnan province on January 22, 2024 AFP via Getty Images

Landslides are common in Yunnan, a far-flung and largely impoverished region of China where steep mountain ranges butt against the Himalayan plateau.

Monday's disaster occurred in a rural area surrounded by towering peaks dusted with snow, state media footage showed.

China has experienced a string of natural disasters in recent months, some following extreme weather events such as sudden, heavy downpours.

Rainstorms last September in the southern region of Guangxi triggered a mountain landslide that killed at least seven people, according to media reports.

In August, heavy rains sparked a similar disaster near the northern city of Xi'an, killing more than 20 people.

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