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11 workers found alive beneath rubble after South Africa building collapse

Emergency workers on the scene of a collapsed building in George, South Africa, Tuesday, May 7, 2024.   -  
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South Africa

A multi-disciplinary rescue team, including sniffer dogs, continued the search on Tuesday night for the over 30 people still trapped under the rubble on a construction site in the South African city of George.

Seventy-five people were there when the multi-storey apartment complex they were building collapsed on Monday afternoon.

At least 7 of them have been declared dead.

But will well over 30 hours since the accident occurred, and many of those taken to hospital in a serious condition, the death toll is likely to rise.

Race against time

Colin Deiner, head of the provincial Western Cape disaster management services, said the search-and-rescue operation would likely take at least three days.

"We are going to give it the absolute maximum time to see how many people we can rescue," Deiner said at a press conference. "It is very, very difficult if you are working with concrete breakers and drillers close to people."

Earlier in the day, Deiner said some of the workers had limbs trapped under concrete and couldn't move. 

"Our big concern is entrapment for many hours, when a person's body parts are compressed**.**So, you need to get medical help to them. We got our medics in as soon as we possibly could," he said.

Deiner said a critical part of the rescue operation came when they ordered everyone to remain quiet and shut off machinery so they could listen for any survivors. 

"We were actually hearing people through the rubble**,"** Deiner said.

Investigations begin

Family and friends of the workers had gathered at the nearby municipal offices and were being supported by social workers, the George municipality said.

Authorities were starting investigations into what caused the tragedy, and a criminal case was opened by police, but there was no immediate information on why the building suddenly collapsed. 

CCTV footage from a nearby home showed the concrete structure and metal scaffolding collapsing at 2.09 p.m. Monday, causing a plume of dust to rise over the neighborhood.

Alan Winde, the Premier of the Western Cape province, said there would be investigations by both the provincial government and the police.

The provincial government has appointed a structural engineering firm to determine the cause of the collapse and who is responsible.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa released a statement offering his condolences to families of the victims and also called for investigations into the cause of the collapse.

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