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SW China village mourns landslide victims


09:22, January 14, 2013

Villagers check the spot of landslide in Zhenxiong mountain of Zhaotong City, southwest China's Yunnan Province, Jan. 13, 2013. Forty-six people died and 2 others injured in a landslide which hit the Zhaojiagou area of Gaopo Village around 8:20 a.m. Friday. (Xinhua/Wang Shen)

ZHENXIONG, Yunnan, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- Wang Faxian collapsed and burst into tears when the last of her 14 family members' bodies was retrieved from the muddy debris.

Although she knew the odds were slim for those trapped in a landslide that hit her village in southwest China's Yunnan Province on Friday, she held out hope that her worst nightmare wouldn't come true.

"I realized that something very big had happened when I heard a loud 'bang'," Wang recalled amid sobs. "But I never thought I would lose all of them."

Wang lost her parents, as well as several of her brothers and in-laws, in the landslide. She herself was in a neighboring village at the time of the disaster.

All 46 people trapped in the landslide, which occurred in the village of Gaopo in Zhenxiong County, were confirmed dead on Saturday.

The landslide is believed to have been caused by persistent precipitation, as well as earthquakes that struck a neighboring county last year.

Over 550 villagers have been relocated since the disaster over fears of possible recurring landslides. Twenty-three large tents have been pitched in the village for some 100 survivors, many of whom lost their relatives and friends.

The grief in the tents is palpable. Luo Yuanju, Wang's sister-in-law who lost three children in the landslide, said she and her husband rushed back to the village after hearing about the disaster.

"I don't know how to live on without my children," Luo said. She said she has fainted multiple times since the disaster due to her extreme grief.

Mourners have traveled as far as 600 km to grieve for their deceased relatives.

Zhao Mingcai, a 36-year-old man wearing a torn and muddy green jacket, became tearful when discussing the nine relatives he lost in the disaster, including his child.

"I didn't get to see my child one last time," he said, his hands trembling. "How can I forgive myself?"

Zhao traveled to Gaopo from the provincial capital of Kunming on Saturday, only to see his home buried under piles of mud. Ragged clothes, children's backpacks and fallen trees can still be seen in the debris.

A total of 19 children, including Zhao's, were killed in the landslide, which happened to occur on their first day of winter break.

"Try to run and avoid the area if a landslide occurs," reads a faded safety message printed on an outdoor blackboard at the Gaopo Middle School. Some of the deceased children are believed to have attended the school, which was not damaged in the landslide.

Students at the school are supposed to memorize the warning, even though landslides are rare in the area.

"I don't know if my child read the message or not," Zhao said before falling into a deep silence.

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