- NEW: Rescuers arrived to find that the side of a mountain had collapsed, police official says
- Rescuers recovered the bodies of five students from rubble; landslide also buried a villager
- The landslide hit an elementary school and two houses, state media report
- The children were studying during a holiday to catch up, an official says
BEIJING (CNN) -- A landslide buried 18 Chinese elementary school students studying during a public holiday Thursday to make up for classes disrupted by recent earthquakes in southwest China, state media reported.
An additional village resident was buried in a house, state news agency Xinhua said, bringing the toll of those the earth had covered to 19. A family of three managed to flee before the landslide hit.
Rescuers have so far recovered the bodies of five students as they scour through rubble at a village in Yunnan province after the landslide struck the school and two houses, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
Images carried by state media showed men digging with spades on a mound of mud and rocks at the bottom of a steep hillside.
The landslide followed several days of rain, Yang Jianping, squadron leader of Yiliang County Armed Police, said in an interview with CCTV. A military rescue team of 50 soldiers has been dispatched to the area, he said.
"When we arrived, we saw one side of the mountain had collapsed and covered the primary school," he said. "We can't recognize the school at all."
The village is in Yiliang County, which was hit by a series of earthquakes on September 7 that killed at least 80 people and injured hundreds.
The students were studying to catch up after the earthquakes prompted the suspension of classes for about 20 days, state-run Chinanews.com said, citing the county education commissioner, Li Zhong.
Authorities moved other residents to safer locations, Xinhua reported, after fallen debris blocked a river and formed a lake. There is concern the lake may grow, break through the earthen obstruction and send a flood surge downstream.
A woman who answered the phone at the county education commission's office did not provide CNN with any details. She said officials authorized to talk to the media are out helping with rescue efforts. Calls to the local information office were not answered.