At least 39 people died in a landslide Friday in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan, the official news agency Xinhua said.

The agency, citing local authorities, said the avalanche buried the homes of 16 families in the village of Gaopo in Zhenxiong municipality.

The hillside collapsed at around 8:20 a.m. and buried some 40 people, according to preliminary estimates. Emergency management teams continue to search for survivors and recover bodies.

Taking part in the rescue work were a thousand people, while local authorities have rushed to the disaster area material needed by the survivors like blankets and tents, Xinhua said.

"The landslide, which poured hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of muddy earth and rocks on the village, buried all the homes in the area and created huge difficulties for rescuers, with the prevailing low temperatures making the situation even worse," the leader of one of the emergency management teams, Sun Anfa, was cited by the official news agency as saying.

Zhenxiong municipality is adjacent to that of Yiliang, where 19 people died last October, including 18 elementary school children, in a similar landslide.

In September a series of earthquakes in the area cause 81 deaths in Yiliang. EFE