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3 days after South Africa building collapse, hope fades for more survivors with 44 people still missing
Posted by Temmy
Fri, May 10, 2024 11:09am


3 days after South Africa building collapse, hope fades for more survivors with 44 people still missing
Rescuers try to find construction workers trapped under a building that collapsed in George, South Africa, May 8, 2024. ESA ALEXANDER/REUTERS

The number of people missing under the rubble of a collapsed five-floor apartment building in South Africa was higher Thursday morning than it had been since the Monday afternoon disaster, as officials said there had been six more workers on the construction site than first believed. Local leaders in the town of George, on South Africa's southern coast, said they believed there were 81 workers on the site when the building crumpled into a heap of broken concrete and twisted metal.

As of Thursday, 29 people had been rescued from the site and eight confirmed dead. Three days after the collapse, hope was fading fast that the 44 workers still unaccounted for might be found alive.

Six of those pulled alive from the debris were hospitalized with life-threatening injuries, and 16 others were in critical condition.

FILE PHOTO: Rescuers work to rescue construction workers trapped under a building that collapsed in George
Rescuers try to find construction workers trapped under a building that collapsed in George, South Africa, May 8, 2024.
ESA ALEXANDER/REUTERS
The rescue work briefly halted Wednesday as teams tried to find the source of a "sound or tapping" coming from under the shattered concrete slabs, said George's Mayor Leon Van Wyk. But he acknowledged that time was running out, saying the chances of surviving such an accident drop dramatically after 72 hours.

The operations would enter the "body recovering" phase over the next day, "as opposed to rescue," Van Wyk told South African national broadcaster SABC on Wednesday.

"As the rescue effort is ongoing overnight, the emergency response team will now implement more substantive concrete breakers and additional trucks to remove building rubble from the site to free remaining entrapped patients," the George municipality said in a statement.

The cause of the construction site disaster was yet to be determined, but local and national officials have vowed thorough investigations.

Moses Malala, a foreman who survived the collapse, told AFP he heard a loud sound before the building came crashing down. Malala, who was working on the roof, said he felt his feet slipping as the building started to fold on one side.

He watched his colleagues fall one by one. Many are still buried under the rubble.

Malala was injured but escaped with his life and has been helping with rescue efforts.

"I have pain too much... I can't sleep," he said. "Since Monday I was here on the site, we try to remove our relatives, our brothers and sisters."

More than 200 rescue workers and emergency service personnel divided into three teams searched separate areas on Wednesday.

The building, which collapsed at around 2:00 pm on Monday, was meant to be a 42-unit apartment block.

On Tuesday night, slight cheers were heard as a survivor was pulled out of the rubble and put onto a stretcher. Another body was retrieved and wrapped in a blanket.

"This is tragic, this should never have happened," said Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of disaster relief NGO Gift of the Givers. "You can't blame the municipality, you can't blame the government. You got to blame the people who were responsible for this construction."

Religious leaders and social workers were at the scene to assist and comfort distraught families.

Men, women and children sang and prayed at the city hall as they awaited news of their loved ones.

"I'm not feeling well because I did not get any information," said Alfred Mbono, a relative of a missing worker. "They just told us that we... need to wait. But we wait from... three days."

Rescue workers at the scene of a collapsed building in George, South Africa, May 7, 2024
Rescue workers at the scene of a collapsed building in George, South Africa, May 7, 2024. WILLIE VAN TONDER/AFP/GETTY





 

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