A DESPERATE rescue effort was under way in Tibet last night, after a landslide trapped 83 workers in a gold mining area.
The landslide covered some 1.5 square miles in the Maizho-kunggar county of Lhasa, the regional capital, an official told China Central Television (CCTV). Reports said it had been caused by a “natural disaster” but did not provide specifics.
About two million cubic metres of mud, rock and debris engulfed the area as the workers were sleeping, CCTV said.
More than 1,000 police, firefighters, soldiers and medics were sent to the scene to conduct searches armed with devices to detect signs of life and accompanied by sniffer dogs.
About 30 excavators were digging at the site as temperatures fell below freezing.
Doctors at the local county hospital said they had been told to prepare to receive survivors but none had arrived.
The official Xinhua News Agency said the workers were from a subsidiary of the China National Gold Group.
At least two of the buried workers were Tibetan, but most were believed to be ethnic Han Chinese.
The site is about 45 miles east of Lhasa.
The Chinese government has been encouraging development of mining and other industries in long-isolated Tibet as a way to promote its economic growth and raise living standards.
The region has abundant deposits of copper, chromium, bauxite and other precious minerals and metals and is one of fast-growing China’s frontiers.
But some worry that the rush into Tibet could wreck much of the high-altitude region’s delicate ecosystem, and that an influx of the majority Han Chinese threatens its Buddhist culture and traditional way of life.