One worker was found dead on Sunday as rescuers worked around the clock to find seven people who were still missing following a landslide in Hubei province.
Fourteen workers were buried when some 500,000 cubic meters of mud and rubble, enough to fill 200 Olympic-sized swimming pools, hit a construction site in Wufeng Tujia autonomous county at 4 pm on Saturday.
Thanks to the efforts of the 390-member rescue team, five workers were pulled from the debris that night, one of whom was seriously injured, Ye Yang, executive vice-mayor of Yichang, told a news conference on Sunday.
Rescuers found two more victims on Sunday morning, one of whom was dead.
The vice-mayor noted the great difficulties facing the rescuers, as the landslide is unstable and Wufeng is expected to experience rainfall on Sunday and Monday.
Out of concern for safety, 17 residents from eight households in a nearby community have been evacuated, he said.
He stressed that rescuers will use every minute of the golden hour period — which refers to the first 72 hours after an accident that are considered critical for saving lives — to look for the missing workers.
"We always put the people's interests first, and nothing is more precious than lives. Currently, the rescue operation is our top priority. As long as there is a glimmer of hope, we will spare no effort," he stressed.
Ye said the Yichang government has stepped up monitoring and early warning for disasters and has dispatched officials to search the city for safety hazards, because the risk of disasters remains high during the main flood season.
The Ministry of Emergency Management said that it has dispatched a work group to oversee rescue operations.
The accident triggered a Level IV emergency response, the ministry said in a media release on Sunday.
China has a four-tier emergency response system, with Level I representing the most severe response.
While 139 rescuers from the National Comprehensive Fire and Rescue Team have reached the site, another team with expertise in workplace rescues has been dispatched to Wufeng to support the operation.
Upon receiving the report of the accident, Wang Xiangxi, minister of emergency management, immediately requested that rescue forces urgently be dispatched, the release stated.
While making every effort to treat those injured to minimize casualties, rescuers must also work to prevent secondary disasters and ensure their own safety, the minister stressed.
He also asked that the accident serves as a lesson, that risk monitoring is stepped up and intensified efforts are made to screen for risks to protect lives and property.