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December 24, 2015

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Man alive 72 hours after landslide

RESCUERS scrabbling through the debris of Sunday’s huge landslide in Shenzhen yesterday discovered a young man alive in the mud.

Tian Zeming survived for almost 72 hours on seeds and fruit that had been buried alongside him when a tidal wave of earth and rubble from a huge waste dump crushed more than 30 buildings.

“He has a very strong will to survive,” an emergency team leader told the Shenzhen Special Zone Daily newspaper in the southern city in Guangdong Province.

The 21-year-old from southwest China’s Chongqing City used a rock to tap on debris to try to attract the attention of those looking for any signs of life amid the sea of mud. Tian was confirmed as one of the 76 listed as officially missing after the disaster, the Guangdong fire department said.

Tian has undergone surgery for a broken hand and injuries to his foot, which had been wedged against a door frame. He had been trying to get out of his room when the building collapsed, and the door frame created a space for him to survive, according to China Central Television.

Tian is conscious and in a stable condition, said hospital official Wang Guangming. However, he is extremely weak, dehydrated and has sustained several soft tissue injuries and multiple fractures.

The falling debris seriously crushed Tian’s lower right leg, but the hospital is doing as much as it can to save his lower limb, Wang said.

Rescuers identified Tian’s location at 3:30am yesterday and managed to pull him from the debris three hours later. He told rescuers his name and said there was another survivor near him.

Firefighters had to squeeze into the narrow room where he was trapped and remove most of the debris by hand, said police officer Zhang Yabin.

Before he was pulled out, Tian had been given oxygen and an intravenous infusion.

Firefighter Wu Wenwei said they put a hard hat on Tian to protect him from stones and debris loosened in the rescue mission.

The other trapped person Tian spoke of, however, was unresponsive, and was later pronounced dead, rescuers said.

The number of deaths was expected to rise sharply after the so-called “golden period” — the 72-hour window when survival chances are highest — closed.

Zhang Hu, a vice mayor of Shenzhen, told a news conference that four bodies had been found. He said that even though the critical 72-hour period to find survivors had passed, they were continuing rescue efforts with a team of 5,000.

“As long as there is a sliver of hope, we will never give up,” Zhang said.

Heavy machinery continues to rake through the thousands of tons of soil and rubble that swallowed up factories and residential buildings.

“The rescue work won’t slow,” Yue Xi, a police officer at the scene, told Xinhua news agency.

Wang Guoshe, head of the Guangdong fire department, said locating the tops of buried buildings was the current main task, so that signs of life could be found more accurately.

The landslide is the latest in a series of fatal accidents in China, and comes just months after a massive chemical blast in the northern city of Tianjin killed almost 200 people.

As China pushes forward with urbanization, more attention must be paid to urban management. Just last weekend, policymakers agreed to transform urban development patterns and improve city management.

The State Council has set up a team to investigate the disaster, China Central Television said yesterday.

The team will be headed by the minister of land resources.

Documents on the website of Guangming New District, where the landslide happened, show that authorities were aware of problems with the storage and had urged action as early as July.

In an announcement dated July 10, officials said work at the site was not being carried out according to approved plans and ordered the Hongao Construction Waste Dump to “speed up” work to bring its operations into line.

The government issued a second warning in September, noting that the dump’s permit to receive waste had expired and authorities had made it clear that dumping should cease.

The city had “pointed out problems at the site and requested steps to correct them,” the announcement said.


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