Mound of Earth Swallows Mountainside Village

DONGHEKOU, China -- Nothing remains of Donghekou.

A mountain sheared off by China's massive earthquake swallowed the village whole, entombing an unknown number of people inside a huge mound of brown earth. The road to the village ends in a tangled twist of metal and tar. The landscape, eerie and still, shows few signs of human life -- a soiled green floral scarf, a rubber pipe, a log.

Wen Xiaoying, 32, held up a hand as she ticked off the family members buried in the muck before her -- her father, her mother, her sister and her brother-in-law.

"Oh God! I have lost everything," she said, her voice shaking as she surveyed the valley for the first time since returning from her job in far-off Guangdong province.

The landslide blocked the valley's Qingzhu river and a lake was swelling behind the wall of debris, posing the threat that it could break its banks and send torrents cascading into villages downstream.

Fear of flooding in Donghekou and the town of Beichuan, 100 kilometers to the south, sent thousands of survivors fleeing Saturday in a region still staggering from the country's worst disaster in 30 years.

The government has said it expects the death toll to eventually surpass 50,000.

The flood threat in Beichuan eased Sunday after three waterways near the epicenter overflowed with no problems, the official Xinhua News Agency said. County officials diverted released water as a precaution.

Locals said two other villages further upstream from Donghekou -- Ciban and Kangle -- suffered the same fate as Donghekou. The three villages were home to about 300 families, locals said.

"When I saw them the last time, we had a good time together," said Wen, a glimmer of a smile showing through as she remembered happier days with her family. "I didn't expect it would be the last time I saw them."

Drizzling rain added to the gloom and to the fears of carloads of people who clogged the twisting mountain roads as they streamed out of the region.

Su Ciyao trudged over the bend in plastic slippers, carrying a plastic rice bag stuffed with salvaged clothes.

"My village is over there," Su, 44, said, gesturing to the swollen earth behind him. Asked where his family was, he could only shake his head.

"Only me," he said, and then set off without a backward glance.