China

China landslide: Stories of survival in Shenzhen

  • 22 December 2015
  • From the section China
An evacuee girl eats food in a shelter set up at a gymnasium near the industrial park hit by a landslide in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, 22 December 2015 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Evacuees have been taken to makeshift shelters, including this gymnasium, in Shenzhen

More than 70 people remain missing in the deadly Shenzhen landslide that took place in China on Sunday while more than 900 were evacuated. A number of survivors have related accounts of their brushes with death to local media. These are some of their stories.


The bosses who saved the lives of 115 workers

Factory boss Huang Yongqing was in downtown Shenzhen on Sunday morning when he received a panicky phone call.

It was from a manager describing intense tremors at their plant in the Guangming New District.

"The moment I got the call, all I said was one word: "Evacuate!'," he told Shenzhen newspaper Jingbao.

Ten minutes later, the landslide's immense wave of soil had reached their plant, Shenzhen Ouleideng Technology, crushing some of their walls.

Image copyright ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images
Image caption The landslide buried or damaged 33 buildings in the industrial park

By that time all 115 employees at work that day had fled, Mr Huang said.

Administrative manager Yan Limin took charge of the evacuation, organising the workers and doing a headcount before leading them to safety.

She told Guangzhou-based Xinxi Daily newspaper: "The building started shaking very severely, I could hear a blast coming from below, we all thought it was an earthquake."


'An unstoppable tide'

Worker Xia Shaohua was heading towards his dormitory, where his family also lived, when he heard loud rumbles akin to "car engines starting up", reported Beijing News.

He noticed that soil was starting to tumble from the peak of a hill a few hundred metres away, producing a thick cloud of grey dust, "like smoke rising from a chimney".

The 50-year-old, who used to live in a mountainous region, sensed something was wrong and immediately called his son, telling him: "There's going to be a landslide, run away quickly."

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The landslide has blanketed an area the equivalent of 50 football fields

He told Beijing News that by this time the soil was an unstoppable tide, rolling down the hill "like the waters of the Yellow River".

Minutes later the landslide occurred, sending plumes of earth shooting in the air, and burying the buildings below.

But his phone call saved his family, including his son, daughter-in-law and grandchild.


The man searching for 16 relatives and friends

Another survivor who was not so lucky was He Weiming, who ran a rubbish sorting and recycling company out of his home.

The 36-year-old and his younger brother are now looking for their missing relatives, including their parents, wives and children, their younger sister and her family, and five colleagues.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Anxious relatives and bystanders have been watching rescuers dig through the soil to find survivors

Early on Sunday morning, the two brothers had headed out from their house, which was located about a kilometre from the large mound of earth and construction debris.

"We drove out to collect rubbish at 07:40, and everything was fine at home. Then we returned at 11:40 and our house was buried in mud. It was a four-metre high metal structure but we couldn't even see the roof," Mr He told the Global Times.

"I've made more than 40 phone calls. Not a single one got through. At first it was because nobody picked up, now the phones appear to have been switched off," he said.

More on this story