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Tuesday, December 22, 2015, 18:55

First body pulled out of landslide rubble

By Chai Hua in Shenzhen
First body pulled out of landslide rubble
In this Dec 22, 2015 photo, r escuers search for survivors among the rubble after a mudslide in Shenzhen, South China on Dec 20, 2015. (X inhua photo)

Rescuers pulled one body from a mountain of rubble at 6 am on Tuesday after working through the night with drones and heavy machinery in search of doznes missing since a giant flow of mud and construction waste engulfed buildings in southern China.

The number of missing people in the tragedy has dropped to 76, as some who were previously reported missing have been contacted, said authorities on Tuesday afternoon.

Previously, the number of missing was reported to be 91, but 15 have been contacted, according to Vice Mayor Liu Qingsheng.

Trucks and excavators were working at the scene, while many of those affected waited some distance away, hoping to return to their homes to retrieve some valuables if they had not been destroyed.

The industrial park has been sealed off, leaving the remaining factory buildings and shops almost empty, except for some firefighters and other rescue workers, who were resting after spending nearly the whole night on rescue work.

Liu Guonan, a geotechnical expert at the China Academy of Railway Sciences, said the landslide was the largest he had seen, adding, "The mud is deep, making it difficult for workers and vehicles to get through."

First body pulled out of landslide rubble
A bird's eye view of the scene of devastation in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, on Dec 21. (Zheng Lei / Xinhua)

Rescue work was continuing at six sites simultaneously. Signs of survivors had been detected at one site, said Lai Xiaolian, deputy chief of the Shenzhen Firefighting Department Command.

Lai said the rescue work is very difficult because the disaster involves "more than a landslide", being a mix of mudflows, landslides and collapsed buildings.

Survivors have been settled in temporary shelters, including a gym, where more than 100 workers from a factory in the industrial park were housed.

One worker recalled the moment on Sunday when the landslide hit.

"Suddenly, the lights in our factory went out, and we all ran out to see what had happened", he said. "We saw the landslide. ... It had engulfed power lines, and there was also red smoke."

Gao Zhen, deputy general manager of one of the factories, said all his workers fled to safety unharmed. The factory manufactures automatic industrial equipment, including robots. Gao said the hill where the landslide occurred had become a dump site for waste soil. "Earth was piled up on the hill without any reinforcement measures," he said.

He said production at many factories had been in full swing as Spring Festival approaches in February.

The landslide covered an area of 380,000 square meters with earth 10 meters deep, authorities said.

Seven trapped people had been rescued, the Shenzhen government said. At least 16 people were hospitalized, Xinhua News Agency reported.

The State Council has sent a team of senior officials and experts to Shenzhen to oversee rescue work. State Councilor Wang Yong is leading the team.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

First body pulled out of landslide rubble
Rescue workers at the site of a landslide at a park in Shenzhen city in south China's Guangdong province Sunday morning. (Photo from the Weibo account of CCTV).
First body pulled out of landslide rubble
The landslide left wrecked buildings in its wake. (Photo from the Weibo account of CCTV).

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