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Huge Landslides In China Have Left 90 Missing After Safety Warnings Were Ignored

These photos are haunting.

The city of Shenzhen in southern China used to be a peaceful fishing village, but over the last 30 years it has rapidly been developed into a special economic zone surrounded by a sea of industrial parks. On Sunday (Dec. 20) morning, a massive pile of construction rubble and mud that had been stacked too high collapsed, causing a landslide that buried 33 buildings and has left at least 91 people missing.

A report from The Guardian notes that "the frequency of industrial accidents in China has raised questions about safety standards following three decades of breakneck economic growth."

Earlier this year, a massive chemical explosion in Tianjin raised similar concerns.

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Rescuers search for survivors of the landslide in Shenzhen
A report from the the New York Times explains further: "China’s rapid construction of new buildings, and the short life of many of those structures, have long created problems with unregulated dumping of construction waste. Often the result is illegal, multistory piles of debris that appear on the outskirts of cities, creating problems with dust and flooding because of blocked waterways."

The report also states, "The landslide on Sunday appears to have been one of the most destructive episodes yet connected with the practice."

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Rescuers search for survivors of the landslide in Shenzhen
The same New York Times report goes onto explain that concerns over safety had previously been raised in the region, but that nothing was done:

A company based in Shenzhen that conducts site surveys had previously warned of dangers at the site, Chinese news outlets said. The company, Zongxing Environmental Technology, published an environmental impact assessment report in January warning of soil erosion risks that might cause landslides, 'threatening the safety of hills and slopes,' according to the 21st Century Business Herald, a business news publication.

The report, which was published on the company’s website, and a related notice on the website of the government of the Guangming New District, the region of Shenzhen where the disaster occurred, appeared to have been deleted, the newspaper said.

Rescuers search for survivors of the landslide in Shenzhen
According to a report from the BBC, factories, low-rises and dormitories for local workers were among the buildings destroyed, and the landslide also "caused an explosion at a natural gas pipeline. Workers have cleaned up about 400m [or over 1300 feet] of damaged pipeline and are now repairing it."

The Guardian notes that "more than 500 firefighters and 30 rescue dogs" have been deployed to assist with rescue efforts in an attempt to find the missing.

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