A total of 91 people are still unaccounted for after a massive landslide hit an industrial area in Shenzhen, Guangdong on Sunday.

Initial investigations have shown that the avalanche of mud and earth that engulfed the area was comprised of construction waste piled against a nearby mountain, indicating that this was a man-made disaster rather than a natural one.

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The Shenzhen government’s emergency task force said at around 9:00am on Monday that 59 male and 32 female victims were still missing.

On Sunday night, geologists on site to investigate said that the mountain of mud came from a construction landfill and that the body of the mountain itself “did not slip”, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

shenzhen landslide
Photo: sznews.com.

Fourteen people were treated for injuries at local hospitals, none of whom was in life threatening condition, web news portal Sina said citing the local government. No deaths have been confirmed so far. About 900 people were evacuated.

The avalanche came down at around 11:40am, swallowing parts of three industrial parks in Guangming district. Pictures posted on social media showed some concrete buildings pushed on their sides while others were reduced to rubble.

Authorities said the area covered by mud is about 100,000 square metres and that 33 buildings were destroyed.

shenzhen landslide
Photo: sznews.com.

The landslide also triggered a gas explosion.

Xinhua quoted workers at the industrial park as saying that dump trucks filled with mud and industrial waste had been passing by their factory “hundreds of times a day” over the past two years.

Search and rescue efforts are ongoing.

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.