Chinese authorities launched a frantic search for around 100 people feared buried after a landslide smashed through a mountain village in southwest Sichuan province on Saturday.

Some 40 homes in the village of Xinmo were swallowed by huge boulders after the side of a mountain collapsed, according to a statement and images released by local government.

Rescuers used ropes to move a massive rock while dozens of others scoured the mountain for survivors. Bulldozers and heavy diggers were also deployed to remove boulders, the images showed. Medics were seen treating a woman on a road.

“There are several tonnes of rock,” local police captain Chen Tiebo told the state broadcaster CCTV, adding that the heavy rains hitting the region in recent days had triggered the landslide.

“It’s a seismic area here. There’s not a lot of vegetation,” he said.

Some 500 people were taking part in rescue efforts, according to CCTV.

An emergency response “to the first class catastrophic geological disaster” is under way, the local government’s statement said, adding that the full extent of the landslide was at yet unclear.

A report from the state news agency Xinhua said that the landslide came from a high part of a mountain in the Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Aba. It struck the village at around 6am local time.

Landslides are a frequent danger in rural and mountainous parts of China, particularly at times of heavy rains. At least 12 people were killed in January when a landslide crushed a hotel in central Hubei province.

More than 70 were killed by a landslide in the southern commercial hub of Shenzhen in December 2015, caused by the improper storage of waste.