At least 91 people were missing after a giant mound of mud and construction waste spewed out of an overfull dump site in a southern China boomtown and buried 33 buildings in the country’s latest industrial disaster.
The site should have been closed down in February, but according to local workers, mud and waste had continued to be dumped there, a news portal run by the city government in Shenzhen said.
Premier Li Keqiang ordered an official investigation into Sunday’s landslide in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong. The mudslide smashed into multi-storey buildings at the Hengtaiyu industrial park in the city’s northwestern Guangming New District, toppling them within seconds in collisions that sent rivers of earth skyward.
Villager Peng Jinxin said the mud came like “huge waves”, as residents ran out of the way.
“At one point the running mud was only ten meters away from me,” Peng told the official Xinhua news agency.
The frequency of industrial accidents in China has raised questions about safety standards following three decades of breakneck growth in the world’s second-largest economy. Just four months ago, more than 160 people were killed in huge chemical blasts in the northern port city of Tianjin.
State television showed scenes of devastation in Shenzhen, with crumpled buildings sticking up from heaps of brown mud which stretched out across the industrial park.
Over a year ago, a government-run newspaper warned Shenzhen would run out of space to dump the waste left behind from a building frenzy.