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Death toll in southern China highway collapse rises to 36 | News

Recovery efforts continue despite steady rain after a section of roadway collapsed early Wednesday.

The death toll from a highway collapse in southern China has risen to 36 people, as emergency teams continue their efforts to recover cars from the scene.

“At 5:30 a.m. on May 2… 36 people died and 30 people were injured,” the official Xinhua news agency reported, adding that the injured were not in a dangerous condition.

The road collapsed early Wednesday morning as China began its May holiday, traditionally one of the busiest times of the year on the roads.

Aerial photographs show that one side of the S12 highway between Meizhou city and Dabu county collapsed when the earth collapsed, sending mud cascading down the steep, forested hillside.

State broadcaster CCTV said the incident was a “natural geological disaster… (occurred) under the impact of persistent heavy rain.”

A 17.9 meter (58.7 foot) section of road collapsed, it said, and 23 vehicles have so far been found in the muddy pit.

Rescuers used cranes to pull cars out of the mud (Wang Ruiping/Xinhua via EPA)

Several people who witnessed the incident told local media they heard “sounds of falling cars” followed by “a huge explosion.”

“We stopped and got out of the car to check and had no idea the road had collapsed,” one of them told the Guizhou Evening News.

The highway was closed in both directions and some 500 rescue workers, including firefighters and mine rescue experts, were deployed to the site to assist in the rescue operation.

Photos from the scene showed damaged cars being pulled out of the mud by a giant crane, with excavators waiting. Rescuers were also carrying out searches using dogs and life detection devices.

Search efforts were complicated by constant rain, as well as shifting gravel and earth at the site, posing a risk to workers, a fire official told Chinese media.

The incident is the latest in a series of disasters linked to extreme weather events in Guangdong in recent weeks.

Massive downpours last month triggered flooding in another part of the province that killed four people and forced the evacuation of more than 100,000 residents.

Last week, a tornado devastated part of the megacity of Guangzhou, killing five people.

The downpours were much heavier than would normally be expected at this time of year and are linked to accelerating climate change.

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