The death toll from a landslide in a remote, mountainous part of south-west China rose to 39 on Thursday, while five people remained missing, Chinese state media reported.

The disaster struck early Monday in the village of Liangshui in the north-east part of Yunnan province.

Search and rescue operations continued amid freezing temperatures and falling snow.

More than 1,000 rescuers were working at the site with the help of excavators, drones and rescue dogs, the Ministry of Emergency Management said.

Two survivors were found on Monday and were recovering at a local hospital.

China Landslide
Rescuers carry out operations in Liangshui Village after a landslide in the remote, mountainous part of southwestern China killed 39 people (Jiang Wenyao/Xinhua via AP)

State news agency Xinhua, citing a preliminary investigation by local experts, said the landslide was triggered by the collapse of a steep clifftop area, with the collapsed mass measuring around 100m (330ft) wide, 60m (200ft) in height and an average of 6m(20ft) in thickness. It did not elaborate on what caused the initial collapse.

Aerial photos showed the side of a heavily terraced mountain had spilled over several village homes. More than 900 villagers were relocated.

Zhenxiong county lies about 1,400 miles (2,250km) southwest of Beijing, with altitudes ranging as high as 2,400m (7,900ft).

Rescuers struggled with snow, icy roads and freezing temperatures that were forecast to persist for the next few days.

Heavy snow has been falling in many parts of China, causing transportation chaos and endangering lives.

China Landslide
More than 900 villagers were relocated in the wake of the landslide after the mountainside spilled over several homes (Jiang Wenyao/Xinhua via AP)

Last week, rescuers evacuated tourists from a remote skiing area in north-west China where dozens of avalanches triggered by heavy snow had trapped more than 1,000 people for a week.

The avalanches blocked roads, stranding both tourists and residents in a village in Altay prefecture in the Xinjiang region, close to China’s border with Mongolia, Russia and Kazakhstan.

On Tuesday, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in a remote part of Xinjiang killed at least three people and caused extensive damage in freezing weather.

Officials suggested the area’s sparse population contributed to the “very strong” quake’s low death toll.

In all, 691 people died and went missing last year due to natural disasters in China, causing direct economic losses of about 345 billion yuan (£38 billion), according to the National Commission for Disaster Reduction and the Ministry of Emergency Management.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Natural Resources implemented emergency response measures for geological disasters and sent a team of experts to the site.