At least 31 construction workers were killed and 7 were missing after landslide caused by heavy rains hit a hydroelectric power station in Fujian province in southeastern China, officials said Monday.
Most of the workers were asleep early Sunday when the landslide began near the Chitan hydroelectric station, the New China News Agency reported. The area suffered heavy rains on Saturday and Sunday, totaling more than 7 1/2 inches in 24 hours, local officials said.
“We were asleep at 5 a.m. before the dawn, when the mountain suddenly began to jolt. Before we could respond, sand and mud flooded into our room and pushed the room 10 meters,” or about 33 feet, 36-year-old survivor Deng Chunwu told the news agency.
“It’s been raining all the time over the past couple of days, and I didn’t think it was a big deal,” Deng said. “But the rain last night was more fierce than ever.”
The hydroelectric station was put into service in 1980. The missing laborers were building an extension that was planned to begin operation in August 2017, according to the news agency. Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered all-out efforts to find the missing workers.
Some Chinese questioned whether officials had made mistakes in choosing the location for the power station. But Li Lixin, general manager of Huadian Fuxin Energy Corp. said at a news conference that an accident had not occurred in 30 years. “We chose the location strictly in accordance with the relevant requirements,” Lixin said. “The disaster was caused by the continuous heavy rains.”
Much of eastern and southern China was hit by torrential rain over the weekend, triggering floods and landslides. Among the hardest hit areas was Yangshuo, in Guangxi province. Surrounded by soaring karst peaks and bordered by the Li River, the small city has been a popular tourist spot among backpackers since 1980s. But it was inundated almost overnight, with numerous vehicles and their passengers stuck on the roads. No injuries or deaths were reported.
China’s state flood control authority warned last week that the country is poised to suffer massive spring floods due to the strongest El Niño since 1998. That year, flooding lasted for two months and killed more than 3,000 people.
The Three Gorges Dam, on the Yangtze River, recorded an inflow of 17,800 cubic meters per second on Sunday, the highest since 1992, authorities said.