The 91 missing included 59 men and 32 women, state-run media agency quoted officials as saying. In what is being regarded as one of China's worst urban disasters, hundreds of tonnes of mud from a crumbling mountain engulfed 33 buildings and triggered an explosion at a gas station in an industrial park in Shenzhen yesterday.

More than 1,500 people, including firemen, police and health workers are involved in the rescue operations, searching the debris for trapped victims.

The rescue headquarters said they have detected signs of life at three separate locations of the site. Rescuers were battling unfavourable geological conditions to save those trapped under the debris.

"The site is quite narrow and is located on a ramp, so it is very difficult for vehicles to enter. We have to go thereon foot," said Ao Zhuoqian, an official of Shenzhen's fire control department.

Rescue efforts were being hampered by a spate of obstacles, including rain, low nighttime visibility and the large amount of mud, Ao said. The landslide buried 33 residential and industrial buildings, officials said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have ordered immediate rescue efforts and prevent secondary disasters.

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