Rescuers have pulled a body from the site of a massive landslide in Shenzhen, almost two days after an avalanche of construction waste buried parts of an industrial area. The chances of finding survivors among the 81 people reported missing as of midnight on Monday are dwindling, the authorities said.

The first death in the disaster was confirmed on Tuesday, after a body was retrieved at around 6am, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

shenzhen landslide
Homes reduced to rubble. Photo:

Search and rescue efforts were greatly hindered by the fact that the substance which formed the avalanche, mostly sand and dirt, filled a large area, leaving little room for those buried underneath to breathe or for detectors to penetrate.

The affected area, which spans three neighbouring industrial parks, is estimated to be larger than 50 football fields combined, CCTV said.

Rescuers said it is difficult to verify information about those missing, as in some cases whole families were buried. Earlier media reports said a migrant worker from Henan province lost 16 family and friends in the disaster.

shenzhen landslide
The affected area is the size of more than 50 football pitches. Photo:

On Monday Sina News reported that seven people had been rescued and 16 remained in hospital. Hundreds of people were offered temporary accommodation after their homes were destroyed.

So far the government has not addressed the question of responsibility for the disaster, although it seems likely that it was caused by the mismanagement of construction waste at a landfill site.

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.