Lax Zoning Laws Could be Linked to China Mudslide

The mudslide that devastated an industrial complex in the city of Shenzhen on Sunday may be linked to lax enforcement of zoning laws and an unstable dumpsite, according to officials investigating the disaster.

The mudslide sent a wave of rock, mud and other debris into the Guangming New District toppling at least 30 buildings, dormitories and other structures.

As of Tuesday morning, the incident had claimed at least one fatality. At least 80 people are now missing among the rubble.

“When the mud slid down, it buried my home,” Ye Shiming told The Wall Street Journal.

Ye works at an electronics factory. She was at work when her three children and 70-year-old father in law were at home.

More than 2,900 firefighters, police officers and other personnel are now involved in rescue efforts, according to the command center in charge of the operation.

“They are still digging, but in my heart, I know that there’s no hope,” said Ye. “The area is buried so deep. The mud is piled up seven stories high.”

During a briefing on Monday morning, rescue officials declined to identify a cause for the incident. However, residents are pointing to the nearby Hong’ao dumpsite, which they say has been accumulating construction waste and debris for at least two years.

Geological experts from the Ministry of Land Resources examined the scene and concluded that waste at the dump site had become “excessively steep.” Some residents said they saw dump trucks dropping off debris at the site as recently as last week.

According to the Wall Street Journal, municipal officials urged the dump’s operator to fix unspecified issues raised in an unnamed report.

By the end of 2015, the local government will have expected to have built 12 such sites to accommodate accumulating construction waste in the fast-growing city.

Recently, major cities have seen disasters linked to rapid expansion and lax enforcement of zoning laws. In August, an explosion ripped through a hazardous-materials warehouse in the city of Tianjin killing 173 people. The government concluded the warehouse was placed too close to nearby apartments in violation of zoning regulations.

The complex hit Sunday was home to mostly small and medium-sized enterprises that develop everything from industrial machinery to mobile phone covers.

Wance Testing Machine Co., which makes testing machinery for industries, lost a four-floor factory building and one of its employees has been reported missing, according to employee Liu Hui.

At least seven people have been rescued and more than 900 residents have been evacuated to safety at locations such as sporting arenas, according to the command center.

Rescue operations continue.

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