Heartbreaking Tragedy: 6 confirmed dead, 37 missing as multi-storey building collapses

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In a race against time, rescue teams in South Africa are working tirelessly to find dozens of construction workers who went missing after a multi-storey apartment complex collapsed in a coastal city. On Tuesday, authorities reported that they had made contact with 11 individuals buried alive beneath the mangled wreckage.

According to the head of the rescue operation, one of the trapped workers managed to call his wife from underneath the rubble of the five-story building. This fortunate contact enabled emergency responders to locate the man, although he remained trapped and had yet to be brought out to safety.

Tragically, six workers have already been confirmed dead, and there are concerns that the death toll could rise significantly. The fate of 37 other individuals remains unknown amidst the vast slabs of concrete and metal scaffolding that came crashing down during the building’s collapse. The incident took place in the city of George, located approximately 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of Cape Town.

While 21 workers have been rescued from the site and transported to various hospitals, at least 11 of them have suffered severe injuries, as reported by the George municipality.

Colin Deiner, the head of the provincial Western Cape disaster management services, stated that the search-and-rescue operation would likely require a minimum of three days. He emphasized the challenges faced by the rescue teams, such as working in close proximity to people while employing concrete breakers and drillers.

The process of rescuing the 11 workers who are in contact with the rescue teams is expected to take most of the day. Some of these individuals have limbs trapped under concrete, hindering their ability to move. Additionally, four workers are located in what used to be the building’s basement.

Deiner expressed concerns about the potential entrapment of individuals for extended periods, as compressed body parts can lead to severe medical complications. Consequently, medical assistance was promptly dispatched to the site.

Deiner indicated that there could be more survivors deeper within the wreckage, and once the 11 located workers are rescued, efforts to remove layers of concrete will commence.

Throughout the night, over 100 emergency services personnel, along with sniffer dogs, tirelessly worked to locate workers. Heavy lifting equipment, including large cranes, was brought in to aid in the rescue mission, and powerful spotlights were erected to facilitate work in the darkness.

Deiner highlighted a critical moment in the operation when all machinery was shut off, and everyone was ordered to remain quiet. This allowed the rescue teams to listen for any signs of life, leading to the discovery of the 11 trapped workers.

Hospitals in the vicinity prepared their trauma units to accommodate potential survivors, while additional emergency responders from neighbouring towns and cities, including a specialized team for collapsed structures, were mobilized to provide assistance.

Concerned family members and friends gathered at the nearby municipal offices, where they received support from social workers, according to the George municipality.

Authorities have initiated investigations into the cause of the tragic collapse, and the police have opened a criminal case. However, no immediate information is available regarding why the building suddenly gave way. CCTV footage from a nearby residence captured the horrifying moment when the concrete structure and metal scaffolding collapsed, generating a thick plume of dust over the neighbourhood at 2:09 p.m. on Monday.

Witnesses described a chaotic scene as people rushed out of surrounding buildings in the aftermath of the collapse, with some screaming and shouting.

While authorities declined to disclose the name of the construction company involved, they stressed that, according to city regulations, the company’s engineers were responsible for the safety of the building site until its completion, at which point it would be handed over to the city for inspection and approval.

Alan Winde, the Premier of the Western Cape province, announced that both the provincial government and the police would conduct investigations, but he emphasized that the ongoing priority was the rescue effort.

The national government is being kept informed of the rescue operation’s progress.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his condolences to the victims’ families and called for a thorough investigation into the cause of the collapse.

As the search-and-rescue operation continues, hopes remain for more survivors to be found amidst the rubble, while the nation mourns the lives lost in this devastating incident.

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