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Eighteen children dead in China landslide

Rescuers search for victims after a landslide engulfed a building of a primary school at Zhenhe village in Yunnan province October 4, 2012. All eighteen children reported trapped in the natural disaster have been confirmed dead.

STRINGER/CHINA/REUTERS

All 18 school children who were buried when a landslide engulfed their primary school in remote and mountainous southwestern China have died, state media reported on Friday.

The landslide, triggered by sustained rains, buried the school and three farmhouses in Yunnan province Thursday as children arrived to make up classes lost due to deadly earthquakes that killed 81 people in the area last month.

Rescuers pulled the body of the last missing child from the landslide debris early Friday, China National Radio said on its website.

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The disaster in the village of Zhenhe is likely to raise questions over why the children had been brought back into the school – located in a deep mountain valley – when the rest of China was on a week-long national holiday.

But local officials have said the children needed to make up class time lost due to disruptions stemming from the seven September earthquakes.

China has a highly competitive education system built around cramming for high-stress testing that determines entry into prestigious schools.

A local villager was also buried under the rubble and has yet to be found by rescuers, according to China National Radio.

School safety is a sensitive issue after thousands of students died when an 8.0-magnitude tremor centred in Sichuan province rocked southwestern China in 2008.

Many schools collapsed in that quake, which killed more than 80,000 people.

Accusations have since emerged that corner-cutting in construction projects, and possibly corruption, results in shoddy buildings – especially as many buildings near the schools held firm.

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