A man was pulled out alive from rubble in a southern Chinese city on Wednesday, more than 60 hours after a waste heap collapsed and buried dozens of buildings in mud and construction debris, state media said.
Tian Zeming, who was found at 3:30 am (1930 GMT Tuesday), was in a coherent state but his legs had been crushed in Sunday’s landslide at an industrial park in Shenzhen, a boomtown near Hong Kong.
“He told the soldiers who rescued him, there is another survivor close by,” state news agency Xinhua said, although it later reported rescuers had found another body rather than a survivor.
That took the confirmed death toll to two. The government has said more than 70 people are missing in China’s latest industrial disaster, although the figure continues to be revised down as authorities make contact with people who were believed to have been buried but were not.
Firefighters had to squeeze into a narrow room around Tian and pull debris out by hand at the dump site in Hengtaiyu industrial park, rescuer Zhang Yabin told Xinhua.
Tian has had surgery and is in a stable condition in hospital, though he may lose a foot, the Xinhua report said.
With growing worries about China’s industrial safety standards and lack of oversight, Premier Li Keqiang ordered an investigation within hours of the mudslide. As authorities conduct rescue operations and investigate the disaster, work has sharply slowed in factories around the site.
Wang Yiwen, 49, who runs a factory near the dump, said he was losing 10,000 yuan ($1,545) a day.
“We cannot go out now. We cannot transfer the goods in and out (of this area),” said Wang. “There is no guarantee for our lives. So many workers have to eat. There is no power supply now.”
On Tuesday, police raided offices of the company that was managing the dump site, Shenzhen Yixianglong Investment Development.
Chinese news portals said police had taken away a deputy general manager named Yu Shengli. Calls to the company seeking comment went unanswered. Shenzhen police did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Xinhua said the dump was being used 10 months after it was supposed to have stopped taking waste, earning Yixianglong some 7.5 million yuan ($1.16 million) in fees.
While no waste was being brought to the Hengtaiyu industrial park, dumping has also stopped at another controversial site in Shenzhen, in the district of Bujiuwo, which opened in 2008 and was due to close three years later.
Its use was extended in 2013 despite strong opposition from residents and even some local politicians, according to Chinese newspapers.
A Reuters reporter saw dozens of trucks sitting idle in a parking lot on the site on Wednesday.
“We stopped because of the landslide,” said a Bujiuwo waste collection site worker, who gave his family name as Huang.
“It’s usually very busy here,” he said, adding that hundreds of trucks usually come and go every day. “We’ve stopped since the second day of the disaster.”
Security guards did not let Reuters enter the site’s main offices.
Shenzhen media has warned that the city was running out of space to store construction waste, especially as the city works on an ambitious subway construction scheme.
On Wednesday, mud and earth were being extracted from the ground at a subway construction site in the city. About 10 workers manned the machinery, with no sign of having halted their work in the wake of the landslide.
“We haven’t stopped,” said one worker, who identified himself by his family name of Si. “They’re still carting away the mud,” he said.
Another worker, a truck driver, said he takes the waste to the nearby city of Dongguan.
The landslide was the second major man-made disaster in China in four months. At least 160 people were killed in massive chemical blasts in the northern port city of Tianjin in August.