A deluge of flood waters and landslides is making rescue efforts extremely difficult in China's Gansu province.
The flooding, which began Sunday, has left 337 people dead. Roughly 1,348 were missing, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported Monday.
'For those who were buried under the debris, now it's the most crucial time to save their lives,' state media quoted Premier Wen Jiabao as telling a meeting of rescue officials late Sunday night.
"Torrential rains began to fall at around 10 p.m. Saturday. Then there were mudslides and many people became trapped. Now sludge has become the biggest hindrance to rescue operations. It's too thick to walk or drive through," said an official identified by Xinhua only as Diemujiangteng, head of the county.
"Since excavators can't reach the site, we can only use spades and our hands to rescue the buried," He Youxin, an officer with the Gannan branch of the Gansu Headquarters of Chinese People's Armed Police Force, told the news agency.
The region's streets are covered with a layer of mud and water more than a yard deep. The high water has ripped homes and buildings from their foundations.
Meanwhile, work crews are trying to restore power, water, and communications in the area.
The rain is expected to continue through Tuesday morning.