Shenzhen Landslide
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Safety in China

Shenzhen landslide aftermath: official who rubber-stamped waste dump that triggered disaster takes his own life

Death is among a string of suicides which have followed unnatural disasters.

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 December, 2015, 1:40pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 November, 2017, 2:31pm

A government official who approved a construction waste dump that triggered the massive landslide in Shenzhen last week has jumped from a building to his death, state media reported.

Police received a tip-off that a man had fallen from a building in a residential area of the Nanshan district of the city, the state-run news agency Xinhua said.

READ MORE: Chinese officials order checks on all construction waste sites in Guangdong after deadly Shenzhen landslide

Investigators at the scene found the man had committed suicide, the report said, citing a statement from the district Public Security Bureau.

The man was identified as Xu Yuanan, the director of Shenzhen Guangming New District Urban Management Bureau.

Shenzhen police said on Monday afternoon that it had detained 12 people including several executives from the site operator, Yixianglong Investment Development Company, along with others suspected of being responsible for the landslide.

Watch: Shenzhen party chief apologises over landslide disaster

Seven people are confirmed to have died in the disaster and 75 are still missing after a massive landslide of dumped earth and construction waste buried buildings at an industrial estate on December 20.

Thirteen of the missing were children, ranging in age from two to 15, according to Phoenix Weekly, a Hong Kong-based news magazine.

Xu, 52, was promoted to head of the bureau in 2009, according to an earlier statement about his appointment.

The urban management bureau is responsible for inspecting waste dumps and public records show it issued an order for the site to close in July until it addressed safety problems.

Trucks, however, were still seen unloading waste at the dump in the days leading up the landslide, according to residents in the area.

It was unclear when Xu left his bureau director post. Public records showed he signed its budget in July, in his capacity as the bureau’s legal representative, but he was not included in the list of senior officials on the its website.

The dump was approved during Xu’s tenure and was mentioned in the bureau’s 2014 annual summary, which said it “provided a strong guarantee to handle the construction waste of major projects in the district”.

It was designed to accommodate 8 million square metres of construction waste during its operational lifespan of 10 years.

The dump site was built in October last year and approved in February, according to earlier reports.

Watch: Man recovered alive after 67 hours buried under rubble in Shenzhen landslide

An investigation team sent by the State Council, China’s cabinet, has ruled the landslide was a man-made disaster as it was created by lax safety at the tip rather than geological conditions.

Disaster suicides

Xu’s death has echoes of the suicide of an official in Tianjin who took his life after the huge blasts at a dangerous goods warehouse at the city’s port in August.

The official at the city’s transport commission was in charge of issuing approvals for schemes.

He jumped to his death two weeks after the explosions.

READ MORE: Owner of collapsed Chinese gypsum mine helped rescue team then killed himself, say authorities

A day after his death, his boss – the director of the commission – was put in custody for his role in approving and issuing a business licence for the warehouse.

The owner of a gypsum mine in Shandong province that collapsed last week, trapping 17 miners, killed himself on Sunday after jumping into a well, Xinhua reported.

One person is known to have died in the mine accident.