China landslide death toll rises to 254

BEIJING (AP) - September 13, 2008 By late Saturday, rescuers had identified 128 of the dead bodies recovered after Monday's accident in Shanxi province's Xiangfen county, a duty officer surnamed Zhang at the Shanxi provincial government told The Associated Press.

The tally could rise as more than 1,000 rescue workers comb through 74 acres of sludge and mining waste covering the area, where hundreds more people could be buried.

The landslide Monday in Shanxi province's Xiangfen county was triggered when the retaining wall of a mining dump containing tons of liquid iron-ore waste collapsed, inundating the village of 1,300 residents and an outdoor market with hundreds of patrons in a matter of minutes.

The official Xinhua News Agency cited the head of the rescue effort as saying that the team would strive to finish the search in three to five days.

Rescuers have covered more than 90 percent of the area, and it could take several more days to cover two channels where villagers believed more bodies are buried, the report said.

The head of Xiangfen county and the county's Communist Party committee chief have been suspended from duty, Xinhua said.

Thirteen officials from the Tashan Mining Co., which ran the illegal mine, have been taken into police custody, including the chairman of the company's board of directors, the mine owner, the deputy mine chief, and company accountants, it earlier reported.

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