NEW: 18 bodies found, state media says
Rescuers arrived to find the side of a mountain had collapsed, police official says
Landslide hit an elementary school and two houses, state media report
The children were studying during a holiday to catch up, an official says
The bodies of 18 children have been found after a landslide buried elementary school students and a villager in southwest China, state media said Friday.
Rescuers found the bodies as they scoured through rubble at a village after the landslide struck the school and two houses in Yunnan province, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
One person is still missing, CCTV reported.
The students were studying Thursday during a public holiday to make up for classes disrupted by recent earthquakes.
The village resident was buried in a house, state news agency Xinhua said. A family of three managed to flee before the landslide hit.
Images carried by state media showed men digging with spades on a mound of mud and rocks at the bottom of a steep hillside.
The landslide followed several days of rain, Yang Jianping, squadron leader of Yiliang County Armed Police, said in an interview with CCTV. A military rescue team of 50 soldiers has been dispatched to the area, he said.
“When we arrived, we saw one side of the mountain had collapsed and covered the primary school,” he said. “We can’t recognize the school at all.”
Yiliang County was hit by a series of earthquakes on September 7 that killed at least 80 people and injured hundreds.
The students were studying to catch up because the earthquakes prompted the suspension of classes for about 20 days, state-run Chinanews.com said, citing the county education commissioner, Li Zhong.
Those who were caught by the landslide had arrived early for class Thursday, Xinhua reported.
Authorities moved other residents to safer locations, Xinhua reported, after fallen debris blocked a river and formed a lake. There is concern the lake may grow, break through the earthen obstruction and send a flood surge downstream.
A woman who answered the phone at the county education commission’s office did not provide CNN with any details. She said officials authorized to talk to the media are out helping with rescue efforts.
Calls to the local information office were not answered.
CNN’s CY Xu reported from Beijing and Jethro Mullen from Hong Kong.