19 November 2013

South Africa: 50 Missing At Building Site Collapse in South Africa

South African paramedics say a partly built shopping mall has collapsed, trapping up to 50 workers.

Initial reports from the accident at Tongaat near Durban say at least one person was killed.

The roof of a mall still under construction collapsed on Tuesday in the South African town of Tongaat. Police spokeswoman Mandy Govender said at least 26 people were rescued but as many as 50 were feared trapped.

"Most of those still trapped inside the building were construction workers," she said.

Television footage showed police and rescue workers walking over large piles of rubble and twisted metal lying next to a railway track. Paramedics used sniffer dogs to locate victims.

Hydraulic equipment

A spokesman for a private emergency medical service, Chris Botha, said the scene was "horrific," telling the broadcaster ENCA that big concrete blocks "had fallen on to people."

"The guys are using hydraulic rescue equipment to break through the concrete and get to some of the patients," Botha said.

Paramedic Neil Powell said most of the injuries were "broken bones, multi-fractures and crush injuries."

"It's a very big construction site, probably about 200 metres (656 foot) long," Powell said.

The cause of the roof collapse was not immediately clear.

Tongaat, a town of 43,000, lies around 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Durban, South Africa's main Indian Ocean city.

The surrounding province of KwaZulu-Natal is the home of President Jacob Zuma.

The region has enjoyed a construction boom in the last few years, based in part on huge government investment in infrastructure projects.

ipj/ph (AP, Reuters)

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