China landslide toll passes 1,000

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The BBC's Michael Bristow reports on the landslide rescue effort in China

The number of people confirmed to have died after massive landslides in north-western China has risen to 1,117, with 627 others missing, officials say.

Two survivors were found on Wednesday, though hopes were fading and rescuers were turning their efforts to finding bodies and preventing disease.

Large areas in Zhouqu county, Gansu province, were enveloped by landslides triggered by rain on Saturday night.

Rain is forecast for later this week, prompting fears of further landslides.

Heavy rain was already said to be falling in Zhouqu on Wednesday and as much as 90mm (3.5in) of rain was forecast for Friday, the National Meteorological Centre reported.

It said the chance of more landslides was "relatively large".

Disease risk

Soldiers have been using explosives to blast through debris that partly dammed the Bailong river and created an unstable lake, which eventually overflowed and sent a wave of water engulfing the town of Zhouqu early on Sunday.

A 1km (0.6-mile) long drainage channel was bringing the water level down, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the vice-minister of water resources as saying.

"The danger of the barrier lake collapsing suddenly has been basically eliminated," the vice-minister, Jiao Yong, told reporters in Beijing.

Meanwhile, specialists in epidemic prevention and medical workers have been sent to the area amid growing fears that contaminated water could spark an outbreak of disease, Xinhua reported.

Yang Long, a doctor running a makeshift clinic at a Zhouqu school, told the China Daily he had already treated several adults and children for diarrhoea.

"Unhealthy drinking water and food mainly caused the disease and we need more medicine," he said.

Survivors found

One of the main problems facing the government is getting all those relief materials to where they are needed, the BBC's Michael Bristow reports from Beijing.

The affected area is mountainous and has few roads. Some were blocked by landslides, while officials said others were congested with heavy traffic.

Correspondents also say the authorities face a growing problem of where to house survivors. More than 1,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and another 3,000 flooded.

More than 4,000 tents have been sent to Zhouqu county but the mountainous terrain means there is little open space to set up camps.

Earlier, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had urged rescuers to hurry before the weather worsened but he acknowledged the task would be difficult.

"We must fully realise the difficulties for the search and rescue work," he said. "You must race against the clock and spare no efforts in saving lives."

Though hopes of finding survivors are fading, late on Wednesday one survivor was rescued nearly four days after the disaster struck, Xinhua reported.

Earlier in the day, a 50-year-old man was rescued from a flooded hotel located inside the barrier lake formed by landslide debris.