One hundred and twenty seven people are confirmed dead. Now troops and civilian volunteers are engaged in a desperate race against time to find survivors.
Two thousand people are still missing after a massive mudslide ploughed through the town of
Zhouqu in north-west China, an isolated area in the mainly Tibetan region of Gansu province.
Emergency services are said to have evacuated 45,000 people so far.
Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao flew to the scene of the disaster pledging that “no effort would be spared” to help the victims.
The mudslide came suddenly in the middle of the night. Torrential rain led to a build-up of water behind a dam of debris blocking the Bailong River.
When that eventually overflowed, tonnes of mud surged into the town submerging houses and tearing multi-storey blocks of flats to pieces.
Thick sludge is hampering the rescue operation as heavy machinery cannot manoeuvre through the wreckage of ruined buildings.
Tents, food and medical supplies are being rushed to the stricken area but the remote mountainous location is making access difficult.