BEIJING: Rescuers scrabbling through the aftermath of a huge three-day-old landslide discovered two people alive in the mud Wednesday, as China’s cabinet announced a probe into the country’s latest industrial accident.
Almost 72 hours after being buried alive by a tide of earth and rubble, 19-year-old Tian Zeming was pulled from the soil by emergency workers who have been battling around the clock in the search for survivors.
Images from the scene showed dozens of firefighters and police thronging around a stretcher, apparently bearing the teenager to a waiting ambulance.
He was confirmed to be one of the 76 listed as officially missing after the disaster in Shenzhen, the Guangdong province fire department said on its official microblog. Tian was taken to the Guangming New District Central Hospital, where he was said to be in a stable condition.
By mid-morning, another man found alive in the mud was still being removed, with reports that he was gravely injured.
Meanwhile, the confirmed death toll ticked up to two, with a so-far unidentified body being recovered, the local website Shenzhen News said, showing a photo of rescue workers with heads bowed in a moment of silence.
The landslide is the latest in a series of fatal accidents in the world’s most populous country, and comes just months after a massive chemical blast in the industrial city of Tianjin killed almost 200 people.
Anger was growing over the lax standards and poor enforcement that were seen to be behind the disaster, whose final death toll was expected to be much higher.
“The lack of safety supervision and passive attitude in taking precautions has caused the whole nation to shake with anger and shocked the world!” user Xizidan wrote in a post that was taken down by authorities, but found on the censorship tracking website Weiboscope.
The mudslide was caused by the improper storage of waste from construction sites, according to the official newspaper of the Ministry of Land and Resources.
Soil was illegally piled 100 metres (330 feet) high at an old quarry site and turned to mud during rain Sunday morning, according to the state-run Global Times.
The State Council, China’s cabinet, has set up a team to investigate the disaster, state broadcaster CCTV said Wednesday. The team will be headed by the minister of land resources.
Documents on the web site of Guangming New District, where the landslide occurred, show that authorities were aware of problems with the storage and had urged action as early as this July.
In an announcement dated July 10, officials said that work at the site was not being carried out according to approved plans and ordered the Hongao Construction Waste Dump to “speed up” work to bring its operations into line.
The government issued a second warning in September, noting that the dump’s permit to receive waste had expired and authorities had made it clear that dumping should cease.
The city had “pointed out problems at the site and requested steps to correct them”, the statement said. -AFP