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Landslide victims identified by DNA

By Huang Zhiling (China Daily)

09:02, July 15, 2013

Ten victims of a landslide in Dujiangyan, Sichuan province, last Wednesday have been identified by DNA comparisons.

"Medics collected 162 DNA samples from people who are looking for missing relatives and 37 DNA samples from landslide victims," said Dujiangyan's executive vice-mayor Chen Yangjie.

The landslide occurred on Wednesday in Sanxi, a village in Zhongxing, Dujiangyan, after the most severe rainstorm Dujiangyan has experienced since it began keeping meteorological records in 1954. Eight rural resorts were buried. Forty-three people perished and another 118 are missing.

"As all the bodies recovered from the site are mixed with mud and sand, it is impossible to identify them without DNA tests," said Yang Weiping, a rescuer on the scene.

Search operations have proved extremely difficult in the mountainous village as the affected area is 2 kilometers long, and contains about 1.5 million cubic meters of mud, rock and debris.

"Very often, rescuers have to use their own hands rather than excavators to dig out victims in order not to disfigure them. As roads leading to the village have been ruined, rescuers have to set up temporary bridges with ropes to transport boards on which victims' bodies lie," Yang said.

According to the Sichuan provincial department of civil affairs, the stormy weather, which started in Sichuan on July 7, has affected 15 cities and autonomous prefectures with a combined population of nearly 2.5 million.

In Wenchuan, a county ravaged by a magnitude 8.0 earthquake in 2008, all townships have been affected by the storm.

"Rainstorm-triggered floods and landslides have caused 14 deaths and 15 people are missing," said county Party chief Qing Lidong.

The Wolong Nature Reserve in Wenchuan has experienced the most damage since the 2008 earthquake, in which nearly 70,000 died.

"Rainstorms have caused 38 landslides. More than 6,000 people have been affected. Roads, agriculture, communications, power and water supply facilities as well as many infrastructure facilities rebuilt after the earthquake have been damaged. Economic losses total 140 million yuan ($22.8 million)," said Zhang Hemin, chief of the administrative bureau of the Wolong Nature Reserve.

In the Wenchuan earthquake, one of the reserve's pandas died, one went missing and 13 panda dens were damaged. After the earthquake, many pandas from Wolong were transferred to the reserve's Bifengxia base in Ya'an, Sichuan. Wolong has only 10 pandas being trained for reintroduction to the wild.

"All the pandas in Wolong are safe. But the road leading to Yingxiu town in Wenchuan from Wolong has been damaged. It hinders the transportation of production materials and daily necessities to the reserve where more than 5,000 people live," Zhang said.

The pandas at the Bifengxia base are 260 km from Wolong and also safe as the mountainous base is 1,100 to 1,200 meters above sea level and the rainstorm had a minimal impact on it.

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