Tibet mine landslide: Hopes fade for survivors

Mine in Tibet, 29 March
Image caption More than 300,000 cu m of debris had been removed by midday on Saturday

Hopes are fading for more than 80 miners buried in a landslide on Friday in Tibet.

Chinese media said the first body had been found - but only 36 hours after the landslip - and that the chances of finding survivors were slim.

The miners' camp, 70km (45 miles) east of Lhasa, was destroyed by thousands of tonnes of rock.

Rescuers have been hampered by freezing weather, altitude sickness and risks of further landslides.

Xinhua news agency said that as of 10:00 local time (02:00 GMT) no survivors had been found and later reported that the first body had been discovered at 17:35 local time.

"The miners' survival chances were slim due to the scale of the landslide," it quoted one rescue worker as saying.

The landslide took place at 06:00 local time on Friday at the mine, which lies at an altitude of 4,600m (15,000ft), burying 83 workers.

Some 2,000 police, firefighters and doctors have been sent to the disaster site, setting up temporary accommodation at a safe distance. About 200 bulldozers have been deployed to shift rock.

Xinhua said cracks on nearby mountains suggested there could be further land slips.

"Temperatures as low as -3C have affected the sniffer dogs' sense of smell," it added.

More than 300,000 cu m of debris had been removed by midday on Saturday.

Huge resources

The mine in Maizhokunggar county, which produces copper, as well as some silver and gold, is operated by a subsidiary of state-owned China National Gold Group, China's biggest gold producer.

President Xi Jinping is said to have ordered authorities to "spare no efforts" in the rescue operation.

Most of the workers were ethnic Han Chinese from Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan provinces, with two reported to be ethnic Tibetans.

Police said the area that collapsed was up to 4 sq km (1.5 sq miles).

Chinese officials believe the Tibetan plateau has huge resources, including millions of tonnes of copper, lead, zinc and iron ore.

Critics claim that Beijing's interests are driven by a desire to exploit the region's rich mineral wealth.

The government argues its investment brings modernisation and better living standards for local Tibetans.

The landslip came on the same day as a gas explosion at a coal mine in north-eastern Jilin province.

Some 28 people were killed at the Babao mine in the city of Baishan.

Another 13 miners were rescued after the explosion.

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