Image: Coffins in China town
Reuters
Coffins lie near a destroyed site of the landslide-hit town of Zhouqu, China, on Wednesday as survivors comb mud-covered areas.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 8/12/2010 2:19:46 AM ET 2010-08-12T06:19:46

Overnight thunderstorms caused new landslides and flooding that swept away more homes in a remote area of northwestern China on Thursday as the death toll rose to 1,117.

The National Weather Center forecast heavy rains in the coming days — up to 3.5 inches of precipitation was expected in the already saturated region on Friday — and said the threat of additional landslides along the Bailong River was "relatively large."

The overnight deluge triggered slides that swept away six houses in Xizangba village, blocked a river near Libazi village, and obstructed a key road used to ferry relief goods, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing local authorities in Gansu province.

Dozens of rescuers were called out at midnight after earlier searching for hours in vain for survivors, army officer Zhang Guiquan was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

Zhang said some 40 soldiers braved potential mudslides to search a collapsed building where cries had been heard. "We will seize every chance to finding survivors, but it is also important to ensure the safety of rescuers," he said.

Tents set up as emergency shelters were flooded and traumatized victims said the storms were a frightening reminder of the deluge that brought on Sunday's disaster in which three villages in Gansu province's Zhouqu district were swallowed in waves of mud and rubble-strewn water.

Mudslide victim Luo Binghong had a sleepless night at a temporary shelter. "I sat all night listening to the sound of rain," she said, huddled with three relatives on a wet bed.

Hundreds of homes were completely buried in the weekend disaster while much of the county seat was submerged after the Bailong River jumped its banks.

A total of 630 people are now missing with hopes of rescue fading fast. However, two survivors were found Wednesday, including a a 50-year-old man pulled from knee-deep mud on the second floor of a hotel, Xinhua said. There were no details given on the second survivor.

Zhang Weixing, a Ministry of Civil Affairs official, said the scale of the disaster made counting the dead all the more difficult.

"In some households, all the people have died," Zhang told a news conference Wednesday

Bodies were wrapped in blankets and tied to sticks or placed on planks and left on the debris-strewn streets for pickup.

Crews had been using hand tools to pull out survivors but roads reopened Wednesday, allowing in heavy earthmoving equipment and supplies.

Clean drinking water was a primary concern, with most local sources knocked-out or too polluted to use. State media reported numerous cases of dysentery, while infected injuries and a lack of sanitation increased the risk of typhoid, cholera and other diseases.

So far, there have been no reports of an epidemic outbreak.

At least 45,000 people have evacuated their homes, and the Ministry of Civil Affairs reported the delivery of 30,000 tents to the area, with thousands more on the way. Zhouqu has a population of 134,000, but it wasn't clear how many needed emergency shelter.

Flooding in China has killed more than 2,000 people this year and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage across 28 provinces and regions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: More landslides feared in China

Photos: Flooding and mudslides devastate China

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  1. People make their way through debris left by a mudslide in Mianzhu, Sichuan province on Monday, Aug. 16. Heavy rains in western China have killed dozens more adding to the more than 1,500 people who have died in flooding and landslides nationwide so far this year. (China Daily / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Floods run through a newly built residential area in Yingxiu town of Wenchuan county, in southwest Sichuan province on Sunday, Aug.15. Floods destroyed prefabricated buildings used as hospital facilities in Wenchuan county, the center of 2008's magnitude 7.9 earthquake. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Soldiers and rescuers evacuates villagers from the mudslide-hit Qingping town in Hanwang, Sichuan province on Saturday, Aug. 14. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Rescuers try to save a resident who was stranded as flooding and landslides hit on Aug.14 in Yingxiu county, Sichuan province. (Liu Xingzhe / Getty Images Contributor) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A mudslide surrounds buildings in Qingping township in Mianzhu city, in southwest China's Sichuan Province on Friday, Aug. 13. New landslides killed 24 people and left more missing as downpours complicated rescue efforts. The region has been hit severe flooding and landslides that have left more than 1,100 people dead. (Zhang Rui / Xinhua via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Crowds gather as rescuers recover a body from the mud and debris in Zhouqu on Aug. 12, in northwest China's Gansu province. (Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Villager Wang Xidai carries a coffin that will be used for his niece, who was killed when a mudslide swept through the town of Zhouqu. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Residents collect wood and logs washed into the Bailong River by recent downpours. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Survivors build makeshift stretchers to transport the bodies of victims pulled from the debris in Zhouqu. (Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Chinese rescuers use boats to search for survivors in flood-hit Zhouqu on Aug. 11. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Rescuers recover money and other personal belongings of landslide victims in Zhouqu on Aug. 11. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Military personnel on clean-up operations work beside a demolished building in Zhouqu on Aug. 11. (Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. A resident mourns her missing relatives in Zhouqu county on Aug. 11. (Aly Song / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Soldiers spray disinfectant at the scene of a mudslide on Aug. 10 in Gansu province. (ChinaFotoPress / Getty Images Contributor) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. People walk among disaster relief tents set up at the No.3 Middle School in Zhouqu county, northwest China's Gansu Province, on Aug. 10. (Wang He / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Rescuers use boats to bring people to a safer area on a flooded street in Zhouqu county, Gansu province, on Aug. 10. (Aly Song / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Two rescue workers stand among the remains of a collapsed building after a mudslide swept through the town of Zhouqu on Aug. 10. (Ng Han Guan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Liuma Shengdai, 52, is transported by rescuers in Zhouqu County on Aug. 10. Shengdai was trapped for 60 hours following a landslide, news agency Xinhua reported. (Zhang Hongxiang / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Rescue workers carry wooden boards to create a passable route through soft mud in the town of Zhouqu on Aug. 10. (Ng Han Guan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Chinese soldiers and residents attempt to pry open the concrete walls of a building that collapsed after a mudslide swept into the town of Zhouqu on Aug. 10. (Ng Han Guan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Rescuers carry a victim out of the debris on Aug. 10. (Aly Song / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A man mourns his missing relatives on Aug. 10 in Zhouqu County. (Aly Song / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Rescuers blow up a blockade to release floodwaters two days after a deadly flood-triggered landslide in Zhouqu on Monday, Aug. 9. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Rescue workers search in the debris after a mudslide swept away a large part of the town of Zhouqu, Gannan prefecture, in northwestern China's Gansu province, Aug. 9. (Aly Song / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A woman grieves for the victims in the mudslide-hit town of Zhouqu in Gannan prefecture, in northwestern China on Aug. 9. (Str / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. A destroyed building in Zhouqu county in northwest China on Aug. 9. (Xiong Gang / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Chinese rescuers armed with little more than shovels and hoes on Aug. 9 search for survivors of a huge mudslide. (Aly Song / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. In this photo taken Aug. 8, soldiers try to rescue a survivor buried under a mudslide in northwest China. (Zhang Yongjin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Rescuers search for survivors amid debris on Aug. 9. (China Daily via Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. A man holds a family photo as he waits for information about his missing wife on Aug. 9. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. People carry a body out of the flooded areas in Zhouqu County on Aug. 9, as upstream from the disaster, demolition experts and geologists were working frantically to drain a lake that had built up behind a barrier of landslide blockage. (EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. A grieving woman is consoled by others in the devastated town of Zhouqu on Aug. 9. (Ng Han Guan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. A resident surveys a destroyed building on Aug. 9. (Aly Song / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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