At least 83 workers have been buried in a Tibet gold mine after a massive landslide swept through the region, Chinese state media reported. More than 1,000 rescue workers have traveled to the scene.
Around 2 million cubic meters (2.6 million cubic yards) of mud, rock and debris engulfed mine workers resting early Friday morning, covering a 4 square kilometer area, China Central Television said.
The official Xinhua news agency reported that more than 1,000 police, firefighters, soldiers and medics were at the site of the disaster, located at an altitude of 4,600 meters in Maizhokunggar county, around 70 kilometers (45 miles) east of the Tibetan capital Lhasa.
The workers were from a subsidiary of the China National Gold Group Corp., a state-owned enterprise and the country's largest gold producer, Xinhua said.
No workers found
Almost all of the workers were Han Chinese, the national ethnic majority, and two of them were ethnic Tibetans, the agency added.
"The situation looks serious, the collapsed area is three or four square kilometers," CCTV quoted a member of the Chinese People's Armed Police on the scene as saying.
Rescue workers have thus far found no signs of the trapped workers, the policeman added.
Doctors at the local county hospital said they had been told to prepare to receive survivors, but none had arrived, the AP news agency reported.
China's new president Xi Jinping, who is visiting the Republic of Congo as part of an African trip, and new premier Li Keqiang ordered "top efforts" to rescue the victims, Xinhua said.
"Xi and Li have told local authorities to spare no efforts to rescue the buried and prevent secondary disasters," it said.
Reports said the landslide was caused by a "natural disaster" but did not provide specifics. The first news reports about the incident did not come out until several hours after it had happened.
The mountainous regions of Tibet are prone to landslides and that danger can be heightened by heavy mining. The long-isolated area is rich in copper, chromium, bauxite and other precious minerals and metals. The Chinese government has been promoting the development of mining and other industries there as a way to promote economic growth and raise living standards.
Despite recent development, Tibet remains one of China's poorest regions.
dr/jm (AP, AFP, dpa)