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First body found in China landslide as hopes fade

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Rescuers searching a Chinese industrial park swamped by a weekend landslide recovered the first body on Tuesday, as hopes faded for dozens of people still missing in the mud.

[SHENZHEN] Rescuers searching a Chinese industrial park swamped by a weekend landslide recovered the first body on Tuesday, as hopes faded for dozens of people still missing in the mud.

Heavy machinery was raking through the thousands of tonnes of soil and rubble that buried factories and residential buildings in China's second high-profile industrial disaster in four months.

There were still 81 people unaccounted for nearly two days after the disaster hit, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

The body recovered on Tuesday morning was the first confirmed death, with the chance of finding survivors decreasing by the hour.

"I don't think there will be a chance (to save anybody)," a woman who identified herself as Qin told AFP.

She was one of a group of local volunteers who wanted to help with the rescue but were turned away by authorities.

Emergency workers were on Tuesday using backhoes in an effort to clear the mud. Many had spent the night on the site.

People who saw the Sunday morning landslide described "huge waves" of red earth and mud racing towards the industrial park in Shenzhen, burying or crushing homes and factories, twisting some into grotesque shapes.

Drone footage showed how the mud had swept through and over buildings and tossed aside trucks like discarded toys.

The landslide was caused by the improper storage of waste soil from construction sites, according to the official newspaper of the Ministry of Land and Resources.

The soil was allegedly illegally stored in heaps 100m high at an old quarry site and turned to mud during rain Sunday morning, the state-run Global Times reported.

Industrial accidents are common in China, with safety regulations often overlooked due to corruption. An explosion in August in the port city of Tianjin that killed nearly 200 people was blamed on improperly stored chemicals.

In the Shenzhen incident, about 900 people were moved out of harm's way before the landslide struck. Four people have been rescued, of whom three had minor injuries.

AFP