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Authorities may need DNA tests to help identify 29 bodies from China landslide
China Landslide XHG 5250710
The scene of a landslide near Badong, central China's Hubei province, Thursday, Nov. 22, 2007. Workers clearing rocks from the landslide that happened Tuesday discovered a bus underneath the rubble Friday morning, and there was little hope that the 27 people onboard were still alive after three days, authorities said. - photo by Associated Press
    BEIJING — Authorities may need DNA tests to help identify 29 disfigured bodies that were pulled from the rubble of a landslide in mountainous central China, a state-run news agency reported Saturday.
    Workers had to blast through the debris in order to retrieve the bodies, most of them trapped in a bus that had been hidden by rubble for three days.
    There was no official word on the cause of the accident, although it struck in a region hit by seismic shocks blamed on rising waters behind the massive Three Gorges Dam.
    Officials had already confirmed the death of one worker on a railway tunnel being carved into the mountainside above the highway where the bus was traveling, and said two others remained missing following the landslide Tuesday.
    By Saturday morning, 29 bodies had been recovered, said Tang Mingyi, a government spokesman in Hubei province’s Badong county, where the accident occurred.
    All but one of the bodies were found inside the bus that had been traveling from Shanghai to Lichuan, a small city not far from the accident site, Tang said. Authorities did not know whether the victim discovered outside the bus was a passenger or one of the missing workers.
    Nearly all the bodies were badly disfigured and authorities may need to use DNA to identify them, the government’s Xinhua News Agency said, citing an unnamed local government spokesman.
    The bus was crushed despite a shield that had been erected over the highway to protect passing vehicles from rockslides, Xinhua said, citing Zhang Xinzhou, an official with the tunnel builder. The tent-like shield gave way under the weight of the boulders that came crashing down Tuesday.
    ‘‘The rocks crushed the tent and hit the bus, which was passing at just that time,’’ Zhang was quoted as saying.
    The Three Gorges Dam, about 125 miles down the Yangtze River from the site of the landslide, is the world’s largest hydropower project.
    Chinese officials sought this week to play down the environmental impact of the dam, which is a pet project of the communist leadership. In comments to state media and reporters, officials have denied any emerging environmental or human catastrophe.
    A government meeting in September discussed an increase in landslides and other seismic activity as the reservoir level has risen, but Three Gorges Project Construction Committee spokesman Tong Chongde said recently that the talks were about potential problems, not actual ones.
    Seismic activity can increase as water pours into formerly dry slopes, some highly porous. This causes splits and fissures, often deep below the surface, while weakening hillsides and causing soil and shale to come loose.

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