October 23, 2016

China police detain 12 in connection with landslide disaster

An aerial view shows excavators and rescuers work among the debris at the site of a landslide which hit an industrial park on Sunday, in Shenzhen

Police in China have detained 12 people in connection with a deadly landslide last week, including at least one executive from a company that ran a dump for construction waste that swept through an industrial park, state media said on Monday.

The government has blamed breaches of construction safety rules for the disaster in the southern city of Shenzhen on Dec 20, when the dump overflowed and engulfed 33 buildings, and has begun an investigation.

At least seven people have been confirmed dead while more than 70 are missing.

In a brief report, the Xinhua news agency said police had taken ‘coercive measures’ against 12 people, including ‘responsible people’ from Shenzhen Yixianglong Investment Development, which ran the dump, using an expression which generally refers to detention.

Calls to the company seeking comment went unanswered.

A Reuters reporter last week saw police raiding two of the company’s offices in Shenzhen.

Police would coordinate with the central government’s investigation and “handle in accordance with the law the criminal suspects”, Xinhua said, without elaborating.

Separately, a former senior Shenzhen official who was in charge of an agency responsible for regulating the waste heap, has committed suicide, police said.

The former director of the Guangming New District Urban Management Bureau, a man surnamed Xu, had killed himself, district police said in a microblog post, adding police had received a report that a person had fallen from a building late on Sunday.

Police made no link between Xu’s death and the disaster. The government had warned earlier that those held responsible would be “seriously punished in accordance with the law”.

The Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper identified Xu as Xu Yuanan.

It is unclear when Xu stepped down as director of the Guangming New District Urban Management Bureau but the district government reported on its web site that another person has been appointed head of the agency in July.

The disaster is the latest deadly accident to raise questions about China’s industrial safety standards and lack of oversight over years of rapid economic growth.

Last week, an executive with a government-appointed monitoring agency said it had urged Yixianglong to stop work four days before the disaster, citing safety concerns.

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