Dozens trapped in China building collapse


BEIJING: Dozens of people were trapped under a building that collapsed in central China, officials said on Saturday (April 30) as rescuers scraped through the rubble and used circular saws to extricate several survivors.

The building, which housed a hotel, apartments and a cinema, collapsed in the city of Changsha, in Hunan province, on Friday afternoon.

At least 23 people remained trapped late Saturday while 39 others were unavailable after the incident, the Changsha mayor told reporters.

“The situation of the missing persons is being further investigated,” Mayor Zheng Jianxin said as rescue workers wearing orange hard hats besieged the scene.

No casualties have been reported so far and city authorities said five people were rescued from the collapsed building overnight.

Officials also confirmed the building was eight stories tall, correcting previous reports that it was six stories.

State media showed firefighters cutting through a morass of metal and concrete slabs while rescuers called into the debris tower to communicate with survivors.

Some of the injured were carried down a narrow alley on stretchers while sniffer dogs combed the area for more signs of life.

There was no immediate cause for the disaster given by authorities, although speculation has circulated about a possible overhaul of the property.

“The tenants had made structural changes to the premises to varying degrees,” CCTV said, adding that the cause of the collapse is being investigated.

SEARCH “AT ANY COST”

President Xi Jinping has called for a search for victims “at all costs,” state media reported, adding he has ordered a thorough investigation into the cause of the collapse.

A senior Communist Party official was dispatched to the scene earlier – an indication of the gravity of the disaster.

State Councilor Wang Yong — appointed by the central government — has been dispatched to lead a team “to lead the rescue and emergency response efforts,” according to an official statement on Saturday.

Building collapses are not uncommon in China due to weak safety standards and corruption among officials tasked with enforcing building quality standards.

In January, an explosion triggered by a suspected gas leak brought down a building in the city of Chongqing, killing more than a dozen people.

25 people lost their lives in June 2021 when a gas explosion hit a residential area in Shiyan city.

In the same month, 18 people were killed and others injured when a fire broke out at a martial arts school, with state media reporting that all the victims were boarders.

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