Wednesday 7 December 2016

At least 85 still missing after man-made mountain of waste blamed for collapse of nearly three dozen buildings

Published 22/12/2015 | 07:02

Ma Xingrui (front, 3rd R), municipal party secretary of Shenzhen, and other officials visit the site after a landslide hit an industrial park in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, December 21, 2015
Ma Xingrui (front, 3rd R), municipal party secretary of Shenzhen, and other officials visit the site after a landslide hit an industrial park in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, December 21, 2015
Rescue workers climb a ladder and onto a damaged building after a landslide hit an industrial park in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, December 21, 2015
Rescue workers search among the debris of destroyed buildings after a landslide hit an industrial park in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, December 21, 2015
Rescue workers search among the debris of destroyed buildings after a landslide hit an industrial park in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, December 21, 2015

An enormous, man-made mountain of soil and waste was blamed for the collapse of nearly three dozen buildings that left 81 people missing in southern China's most prominent manufacturing city.

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Rescuers pulled out one body early today, the landslide's first confirmed death.

The authorities said the landslide buried or damaged 33 buildings in the industrial park in Shenzhen, a city near Hong Kong that makes products ranging from mobile phones to cars that are sold around the world.

Residents blamed the government while officials cited human error, with one ministry saying: "The pile was too big, the pile was too steep."

The landslide on Sunday covered an area of 450,000 square yards with silt 33 feet)deep, authorities said. At least 16 people were taken to hospital.

The official China News Service said the number of the missing people went down to 81, from previous day's 85. The Shenzhen government said seven trapped people had been rescued.

The landslide is the fourth major disaster to strike China in a year following a deadly New Year's Eve stampede in Shanghai, the capsizing of a cruise ship in the Yangtze River and a massive explosion at a chemicals warehouse in Tianjin on the coast near Beijing.

Human error has been suspected or confirmed in all three previous disasters, pointing to a lack of regulatory oversight and an often callous attitude toward safety in China despite the threat of harsh penalties.

In Sunday's landslide, the Ministry of Land and Resources said a steep man-made mountain of dirt, cement chunks and other construction waste had been piled up against a 330-foot-high hill over the past two years.

Heavy rains in the region saturated the soil, making it heavy and unstable, and ultimately causing it to collapse with massive force.

"The pile was too big, the pile was too steep, leading to instability and collapse," the ministry said, adding that the original, natural hill remained intact.

Some residents blamed government negligence.

"If the government had taken proper measures in the first place, we would not have had this problem," said Chen Chengli.

Aerial photos showed the area awash in a sea of red mud, with buildings either knocked on their side or collapsed entirely.

The damaged buildings included 14 factories, two office buildings, one cafeteria, three dormitories and 13 sheds or workshops, Shenzhen deputy mayor Liu Qingsheng said.

The Shenzhen government said 600 people had been relocated.

Nearly 3,000 people were involved in the rescue efforts, aided by 151 cranes and other construction equipment, along with rescue dogs and specialist life-detecting equipment.

Press Association

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