Beijing, Dec 21: Racing against time, hundreds of rescuers battling inclement weather today mounted a massive operation to locate 85 missing people including 32 women in one of China's worst landslides which struck an industrial estate in the Communist giant's manufacturing hub of Shenzen.
The number of missing people in the landslide was revised to 85 from 91 after further checkups, local officials said.
A huge man-made mound of earth and construction debris lost stability and collapsed yesterday, burying 33 buildings and triggering an explosion at a gas station in an industrial park in the southern city of Shenzhen in what is being termed as one of China's worst urban disasters.
Rescuers sifted through hundreds of tonnes of mud from a crumbling mountain and debris from the buildings in one of China's most developed cities, bordering Hong Kong.
Authorities mounted a massive rescue operation battling bad weather and low visibility, with 78 excavators and 1,200 rescuers added to the operation searching for the 85 people missing that includes 32 women, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
There are now 2,906 rescuers, including some 8,00 members of the armed forces, digging through silt and rubble at the Hengtaiyu industrial park. The excavators, which arrived at the site this morning, are the first to be involved in the operation, the report said.
Using life detectors, excavators and drones, about 3,000 rescue worker carefully dug through the nearly five story mud pile stretching up to 10 football fields for survivors.
They were close to reaching the first floor of a buried office building this evening, official media reported. Experts flown to the area for rescue operations dug five large pits through which they tried to detect signs of life using life detectors.
"The rescue is extremely difficult with mud and silt filling up the excavation," said Cui Bo, a Guangdong firefighter at the scene. It is unlikely that further landslides take place, as per the team of 200 geology and gas experts present on the spot.
The rescue headquarters have detected signs of life at three separate locations. Two checkpoints have been set up to register and verify information on the missing people. "The site is quite narrow and is located on a ramp, so it is very difficult for vehicles to enter.
We have to go there on foot," said Ao Zhuoqian, an official of Shenzhen's fire control department. Rescue efforts were being hampered by a spate of obstacles, including rain, low nighttime visibility and the large amount of mud, Ao said.
The landslide buried 33 buildings including 14 factory buildings, two office buildings, one canteen, three dormitories and 13 low-rise buildings.