World

China holds day of mourning for landslide dead; flags lowered, ceremony on state TV

BEIJING (AP) — Cinemas closed and coal miners stopped work as China observed a day of mourning Sunday for more than 1,200 victims of a mudslide a week earlier in a northwestern town, while authorities rushed to protect survivors from more flooding.

In a televised memorial service, some 5,000 rescue workers and Zhouqu residents bowed their heads in silence as a siren wailed. State TV showed coal miners in northern China and railway workers with their heads bowed in mourning.

Cinemas and karaoke parlors were ordered to close and concerts were canceled in memory of at least 1,248 people who were killed as the mudslide triggered by heavy rain crashed through Zhouqu in Gansu province on Aug. 8.

The government says another 496 people are still missing.

With more rain forecast, soldiers who are trying to prevent more flooding in Zhouqu went back to work after the memorial using construction equipment to clear debris from the swollen Bailong River that flows through the town.

State television said "moderate to heavy rain" is expected Tuesday through Thursday.

One-third of the town is still under water following the disaster. The Ministry of Civil Affairs said at least 45,000 people were evacuated.

State media reported cases of dysentery but no epidemic. Authorities brought in mobile purification units that can provide water for up to 30,000 people, the government's China News Service reported.

Also Sunday, the giant Chinese flag on Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing and flags at government offices were lowered to half-staff. Websites switched to all-black formats.

Performances at the Shanghai World Expo were canceled.

Sunday was the third time in two years that China has observed national mourning for a disaster. The government ordered a three-day observance after the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province that killed nearly 90,000 people and one day following April's quake in Yushu in Qinghai that killed 2,698 people.

Also Saturday, 38 people were missing after rains triggered landslides in Sichuan province in the southwest, the government's Xinhua News Agency said.

Floods destroyed prefabricated buildings used as hospital facilities in Wenchuan county, the center of 2008's magnitude 7.9 earthquake.

China regularly suffers devastating summer floods, but this year has been unusually severe.

Storms killed at least 1,500 people nationwide before the Zhouqu landslide and caused tens of billions of dollars in damage.