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Death toll in fatal landslide rises to 259
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Rescuers retrieved one more body from a landslide in north China on Tuesday afternoon, pushing the death toll in the Sept. 8 tragedy to 259.

A man's body was found at about 3:07 p.m. beside a collapsed iron ore dump and was taken away by his relatives, rescuers said.

In the morning, rescuers retrieved four more bodies. Three bodies were excavated from a collapsed house and the other was found in the debris outside.

The four were men whose identities hadn't yet been established, rescuers said.

More than 300 rescuers and more than 30 pieces of machinery were being used in the search for other possible victims in the debris in Xiangfen County, Shanxi Province. A mudflow hit the area on the morning of Sept. 8 after the collapse of a retaining pond at an unlicensed iron ore dump.

A huge volume of tailings, mud and rock engulfed a downstream village with more than 1,000 residents, burying people along with a busy outdoor market.

The State Administration of Work Safety said 159 bodies had been identified as of Tuesday.

At present, 34 people remained in hospital and four patients who had been in critical condition were temporarily upgraded to stable.

Compensation of 200,000 yuan (about 29,200 U.S. dollars) will be paid to the families of each victim. Each person disabled by the accident will get compensation ranging from 50,000 yuan to 150,000 yuan plus a monthly subsidy of 100 yuan to 300 yuan, according to disaster-relief policies released by the local government on Tuesday.

More than 400 local government officials have been dispatched to help the victims' families.

Cremations will start soon, as 115 families have signed the necessary documents.

An initial investigation found the mine collapse was due to negligence.The tailings dump was built in violation of regulations and had few safety inspections.

Liu Xiangjuan, 48, was still waiting for information on her husband, who has been missing since the slide. The mother of two was laid off years ago and her husband was the family's sole support.

"Those responsible for the accident must be severely punished, especially officials who connived with the mine owners leading to the deaths of so many innocent people," she said.

A 47-year-old man, who only gave his surname as Shi, said officials should determine the cause of the collapse and those responsible as soon as possible.

Shi lost his brother in the slide and the fate of four of his other relatives remained unknown.

A probe was under way by an investigation team of the State Council, China's Cabinet. The government has ordered a nationwide safety check at such sites for potential problems.

(Xinhua News Agency September 16, 2008)

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