Survivor pulled from rubble 67 hours after devastating China landslide

Rescue workers in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen early Wednesday found a survivor of a devastating landslide, 67 hours after a massive pile of construction waste collapsed and covered factories, worker dormitories and apartment blocks in a sea of red earth.


A survivor is transported on Dec. 23 from the site of a landslide in Shenzhen, China. (Yin Gang / New China News Agency / Associated Press)

The survivor, Tian Zeming — a migrant worker from the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing — was in stable condition in the Guangming New District Central Hospital, the state-run New China News Agency reported. Tian was located at about 3 a.m. with his leg crushed by concrete, but his mind lucid and his speech clear, the news service said.

More than 70 people remained missing after Sunday’s landslide, according to the news agency, and many are feared dead. At least four bodies have been recovered. Many of the victims were migrant workers from Henan, an impoverished northern Chinese province, who were drawn to the southern boom town for low-wage employment. At least 900 people were evacuated, officials said.

The landslide covered an area of nearly 650,000 square feet — equivalent to more than 70 football fields — in the Guangming New District on Shenzhen’s outskirts. More than 30 buildings remain submerged in dirt.

More than 5,000 rescue workers have been dispatched to the scene, said Shenzhen’s vice mayor, Zhang Hu, according to the news service.

Tian had told rescuers that he was near another survivor, yet state media said that by the time rescuers found the person, he had already died.

Rescuers also reported that they discovered a live chicken amid the debris on Wednesday. State media published pictures of grinning, orange-clad safety workers holding the bird and giving it water.

For China, 2015 has been a year of man-made disasters, and many blame a regulatory environment which, shaped by a decades-long growth-at-all-costs development strategy, often allows cutting corners and corruption to undermine safety and environmental checks.

In August, a series of blasts at a chemical warehouse in Tianjin, a municipality near Beijing, killed more than 100 people and injured nearly 800. In June, a cruise ship capsized on the Yangtze river amid heavy winds, killing more than 440 people. Government investigators later found that the ship had been cited for safety violations.

The Chinese government set up an investigative unit made up of representatives from nine government bodies to “look into” Sunday’s landslide, the New China News Agency reported.

Authorities have detained the vice chairman of a Shenzhen-based company, Yixianglong Investment, under suspicion that it had jurisdiction over the slag heap that collapsed and buried the area, the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper reported Tuesday

On Wednesday, stories from survivors of the landslide began to emerge.

Wang Yongquan, a migrant worker from Henan province, told the news agency that he escaped from the landslide with his 5-year-old daughter in his arms. “I had never run that fast before,” he told the agency.

“Dozens of people were trying to run away from the mud,” another survivor, Zhou Suqing, 48, told the South China Morning Post. “Some were lucky enough to be pushed out by the impact of the landslide, but others were buried under the mud.” Her husband had been buried alive, the paper said.

“I wanted to communicate the information about where these people were probably buried to the rescue teams, but I had no chance to speak to them,” she told the newspaper.