SHENZHEN, China (AP) — At least 91 people were missing Monday, a day after a man-made mountain of excavated soil and construction waste buried dozens of buildings when it swept through an industrial park in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen.
The official Xinhua news Agency said the landslide buried or damaged 33 buildings in the industrial park in Shenzhen, a major manufacturing center in Guangdong province across the border from Hong Kong that makes products used around the world from cellphones to cars.
Details are beginning to emerge about the cause of the landslide that authorities now say covered an area of 100,000 square meters (1 million square feet) with up to 6 meters (20 feet) of mud.
The Ministry of Land and Resources said the debris originated with a steep, man-made mountain of dirt, cement chunks and other construction waste that had been piled up against a 100-meter (330-foot) -high hill over the past two years.
Heavy rains in the region adjacent to Hong Kong had saturated the soil, making it increasingly unstable and ultimately causing it to collapse with massive force.
The Ministry said it had dispatched additional personnel to help monitor the situation and guard against a second collapse.
Xinhua said that as of Monday morning, 59 men and 32 women were missing in the landslide. No deaths were reported so far.
Li Yikang, the deputy secretary general of the Shenzhen city government, said at a televised news conference that more than 900 people had been evacuated. He said that nearly 1,500 people were involved in rescue efforts.
State broadcaster China Central Television, or CCTV, said that there was a residential area next to the industrial zone, and that the buildings buried included two workers’ dormitories.
Ren Jiguang, the deputy chief of Shenzhen’s public security bureau, told CCTV that most people had been moved to safety before the landslide hit.
State media carried photos of what looked like at least one five-story building leaning over and partly crumpled in the industrial park, and a sea of brown soil covering a vast area around it.
The landslide is the fourth major disaster to strike China this year following a deadly New Year’s Day stampede in Shanghai, the capsizing of a cruise ship in the Yangtze River and a massive explosion at a chemicals warehouse in Tianjian on the coast near Beijing.
Human error has been suspected or confirmed in all three previous disasters, pointing to an often callous attitude toward safety despite the threat of harsh penalties.
Three decades of headlong economic growth have been catching up with China in terms of safety and damage to the environment. Many of the country’s major cities suffer from chronic air pollution and Beijing on Monday was enduring a four-day smog red alert that forced schools to close, factories to curtail production and half the city’s cars off the roads.