A landfill in Shenzhen that environmental inspectors had warned could pose a threat to an industrial park where people lived and worked collapsed on December 20, covering the area with a river of mud that has left at least 91 missing.

Landfill collapse scene
Landfill collapse scene

Rescue workers were detecting signs of life from beneath the mud on December 21 and a fleet of excavators was trying to dig down to some of the 33 buried buildings to reach people who were trapped, said Yang Shengjun, director of the city’s construction bureau.

The mud that flowed out of the landfill about a kilometer away was 10 meters deep in some areas, city officials said. It was unclear what caused the facility to overflow.

Shenzhen city officials initially called the incident “a landslide,” which it would indicate the area was hit by a natural disaster. However, later on December 20 officials from the Ministry of Land and Resources said a “construction waste disposal site” had collapsed. Ministry officials did not use the word landslide.

Photos of the area that Caixin took using a drone equipped with a camera show a broad river of mud that flowed out of a hilly area, covering roads and buildings. The mud flow, which started at 11:40 a.m. on December 20, covered 14 factory buildings, two office buildings, three dorm buildings and other structures in the industrial park area in the Guangming New District in northwestern Shenzhen.

The mud flow covered 380,000 square meters, the city government said, an area equivalent to more than 53 soccer fields.

An environmental impact assessment report that the builder and operator of the landfill, Shenzhen Luwei Property Management Co. Ltd., published in January indicated the facility could pose a risk to nearby industrial parks. Read more

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