China landslide disaster caused by safety breaches: cabinet website

SHANGHAI - A landslide in southern China that killed two people and left more than 70 people missing was caused by breaches of construction safety rules and was not a natural disaster, a government website quoted local authorities as saying.

An investigation by a team in Shenzhen directed by China's cabinet found the Dec. 20 disaster stemmed from waste construction material in a landfill site rather than a natural geological movement, a statement posted late Friday on the cabinet's website said.

"Those held accountable will be seriously punished in accordance with the law," the statement said.

The man-made disaster, which buried 33 buildings in an industrial park, has raised questions about China's industrial safety standards and lack of oversight that has led to fatal accidents, a by-product of the country's rapid growth.

At the Shenzhen industrial park, there is still some risk of more landslides at three separate places and professionals have been brought in to deal with the issue, Xinhua news agency on Friday quoted a Shenzhen official as saying.

"There are also dangerous chemical items that need to be identified and treated," Yang Shengjun, head of the Shenzhen Housing and Urban-Rural Development Bureau, was quoted as saying.

Yang said no air or water contamination has been detected yet, according to Xinhua.

The company managing the dump site, Shenzhen Yixianglong, was urged to stop work four days before the disaster, an executive with a government-appointed monitoring agency said on Thursday.

Xinhua earlier reported that the dump was being used 10 months after it was supposed to have stopped taking waste, earning Yixianglong some 7.5 million yuan ($1.16 million) in fees.