Eleven people have been arrested and one official has reportedly killed himself after a mountain of construction waste collapsed in China, flattening part of the city of Shenzhen and killing at least 12 people on 20 December.
The death toll is certain to rise as Chinese media reported 62 people still missing on 31 December, eleven days after the landslide destroyed 33 buildings in the Hengtaiyu industrial zone.
Buildings, factories and workers’ dormitories over a 380,000-sq-m area were engulfed by the sudden torrent of earth and mud, which state investigators blamed on human error.
On 27 December, Xu Yuanan, director of the Shenzhen Guangming New District Urban Management Bureau, which approved the waste dump, jumped from a building to his death.
Nearly 200 large digging machines were reported to have been deployed to search for survivors and clear the site.
Concerns had been raised previously over the stability of the growing mound of soil on the former quarry site–
One survivor was pulled from wreckage on 23 December, after being buried for 67 hours.
Officials announced the arrests of 11 people in connection with the disaster on 31 December. The 11 include a legal representative and a deputy general manager of a company that was in charge of the landfill, state news agency Xinhua reported.
They were charged with negligently causing a serious accident, said the procuratorate of Bao’an district, Shenzhen, adding it has urged police to track down other suspects described as "on the run" as soon as possible.
Concerns had been raised previously over the stability of the growing mound of soil on the former quarry site, according to a report in The New York Times.
Unsafe disposal of construction waste is a problem throughout China, Yuan Hongping, associate professor at Southwest Jiaotong University in Sichuan, told the newspaper.
However, Shenzhen presents a particular challenge because development there has been rampant and sustained.
Established as China’s first special economic zone in 1980, the city’s population has grown since then from 30,000 to 10.78 million in 2014.
Photograph: Aerial view of the aftermath of the landslide in Shenzhen on 20 December 2015 (ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images)