China waste site firm "urged to stop work" days before Shenzhen landslide

Rescuers carrying the body of a victim who was pulled out from the debris of a landslide in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, on Dec 23, 2015.
Rescuers carrying the body of a victim who was pulled out from the debris of a landslide in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, on Dec 23, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (REUTERS) - The firm managing a waste heap which collapsed and buried dozens of buildings in southern China was urged to stop work four days before the disaster, an executive with a government-appointed monitoring agency said on Thursday (Dec 24), citing safety concerns.

Two people died and more than 70 people were missing after Sunday's landslide at an industrial park in Shenzhen, a boomtown near Hong Kong, in China's latest industrial disaster. A man was pulled out alive from the rubble on Wednesday (Dec 23).

The man-made disaster has raised questions about China's industrial safety standards and lack of oversight. On Tuesday, police raided offices of Shenzhen Yixianglong, the company managing the dump site.

Executives from the Shenzhen J-star Project Management Consultant Co, a consulting company which was hired by officials in Shenzhen to supervise engineering projects, had first recommended that Yixianglong "stop all work" and repeatedly requested that they do so in the next few months, Bian Yuxiang, J-star's deputy general manager, told Reuters by telephone.

Bian said that J-star highlighted five issues about the dump site to government investigators, questioning quality inspection and saying Yixianglong had failed to carry out tests on slopes around the area and did not meet safety standards such as the wearing of helmets.

In a Dec 16 meeting that was attended by officials from the Guangming New District Urban Management Bureau and the Shenzhen Keyu Engineering Consultant Co. Ltd, an engineering consulting firm, J-star urged Yixianglong to suspend all operations, Bian said.

"All the parties present agreed to it," Bian said, adding that the work should have stopped then. Bian said J-star "did not have the right" to order Yixianglong to stop the work.

"My responsibility is to report the problems I've discovered to the Guangming Urban Management Bureau. It is up to the urban management bureau to execute the order," he said.

Calls to Yixianglong, the Guangming New District Urban Management bureau and the Shenzhen Keyu Engineering Consultant Co. went unanswered.

State news agency Xinhua said previously that the dump was being used 10 months after it was supposed to have stopped taking waste, earning Yixianglong some 7.5 million yuan (S$1.6 million) in fees.