3 December 2012

Namibia: Shopping Mall Collapses, Deaths Confirmed

Ondangwa — The interior of a shopping centre in central Ondangwa collapsed on Sunday morning, killing at least two people inside a retail shop, and causing structural damage to the rest of the building.

Two people including a child were confirmed dead, while three were seriously injured. The search and rescue mission took on a slow start, as emergency teams feared a rescue attempt could trigger the building to cave in further, as the sound of a snapping structure, including pillars, were still audible for some time.

A concrete beam collapsed inside the building occupied by retail chain Pick 'n Pay B6 Ondangwa at around 10:20am. "We are tremendously shocked and overwhelmed by the unfortunate loss in lives and injuries that occurred as a result of a concrete-beam that collapsed in the rental building that Pick 'n Pay (PnP) leases in Ondangwa. An investigation is currently underway to determine the cause of this unfortunate incident," Pick 'n Pay said in a statement yesterday afternoon.

Thousands of curious onlookers rushed to the scene of the accident immediately after the collapse of the building, blocking efforts by rescue crews to search for people who were feared buried under the debris.

It is believed that heavy rain in the north over the weekend caused a supposedly fragile interior wall and ceiling of the Pick 'n Pay store to collapse, while people were doing their Sunday shopping.

"I heard what sounded like air-conditioner units falling to the ground, lots of bangs and crashes," said a shopper who survived and witnessed the incident. The adjacent Bank Windhoek branch was closed at the time of the incident.

"On behalf of the Executive Chairman, Sven Thieme of the O&L Group of which Pick 'n Pay is a subsidiary, and also on behalf of the Managing Director, Henry Feris and the entire management of Pick 'n Pay, I wish to offer our sincerest condolences and heartfelt sympathies to the families of the deceased and those who experienced tremendous loss on this day. We wish the injured a speedy recovery," Roux-che Locke, the group manager for external relations at O&L Group said in the statement.

Oshana Regional Commander, Commissioner Ndahangwapo Kashihakumwa, could not provide further details or release the names of the deceased until their next of kin are notified. "We gave first aid care to one person who suffered light to moderate injuries before we evacuated her to a hospital," a rescue operator said.

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