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1,300 missing, 127 dead in China disaster

ZHOUQU, China, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao arrived late Sunday in Gansu province where emergency officials say about 1,300 people were missing in a series of deadly landslides.

The rescue headquarters in Zhouqu County said an estimated 1,294 people were still missing as of 9 p.m. Sunday, down from 2,000 earlier, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported. Officials said 127 people were confirmed dead.

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Officials said 117 people were injured, including 29 seriously, and another 1,242 had been rescued from debris or plucked from tops of buildings and other areas where they had sought safety, Xinhua said.

The disaster occurred in Zhouqu County, part of the Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in China's Gansu province. Tibetan ethnic herders and farmers make up most of the population, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The head of the prefecture told Xinhua mud and rocks poured into the community of Chengguan Township during the night, inundating about half of the town and destroying more than 300 homes.

Official said a thick layer of mud was preventing rescue crews from bringing in heavy equipment to help with the digging, forcing them to use shovels and bare hands to reach victims.

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Engineers were also planning to blast away natural dams caused by landslides that were blocking the Bailong River and causing water to back up in parts of the stricken region.

State-run television estimated Sunday 50,000 people had been evacuated, the Times reported.

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