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First Fatality Confirmed in Chinese Industrial Landslide

An aerial view shows the site of a landslide which hit an industrial park in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China, December 21, 2015.

Search and rescue crews have recovered one body from the rubble of a massive landslide that wiped out an industrial park in southern China Sunday.

Tuesday's discovery marks the first confirmed death from the disaster at the Hengtaiyu park in the economic powerhouse of Shenzhen, Guangdong province. Emergency crews have been working nonstop over a large debris field covering about 380,000 square meters, using drones and heavy machinery in desperate search for survivors buried under mud as much as 10 meters deep.

As many as 81 people remain missing in the disaster, down from a reported 91 people as of early Monday. Authorities say some people have been found alive in the rubble.

Witnesses say "huge waves" of mud and debris swept over the industrial park, leaving 33 buildings either destroyed or damaged, including 14 factories, two office buildings and three dormitories. "A statement by China's land ministry Sunday blamed the tragedy on the collapse of a 100-meter tall mountain of construction waste and dirt stored at a nearby waste dump, which was weakened by heavy rainstorms in the region. The landslide also triggered an explosion at a nearby natural gas pipeline owned by PetroChina, the country's top oil and gas producer.

Shenzhen, China
Shenzhen, China

The cause of the landslide has raised questions about safety standards in China, following three decades of breakneck economic growth. The country has seen an increasing number of industrial accidents, including a series of explosions at a a chemical storage facility in the northern port city of Tianjin back in August which left nearly 160 people dead.

Authorities arrested 12 company employees and 11 government officials in connection with that disaster.