(Beijing) Dozens of people were trapped or missing on Saturday, the day after a building collapsed in central China, the cause of which is still unknown.
Posted at 8:18 am
The eight-storey building, which housed a hotel, apartments and a cinema, collapsed in the city of Changsha on Friday afternoon.
At least 23 people were trapped late Saturday while 39 others remained unreachable, Changsha Mayor Zheng Jianxin told reporters.
So far no deaths have been announced.
“The situation of the missing persons is being thoroughly evaluated,” the mayor said as rescue workers wearing orange hard hats swarmed the scene.
According to the city administration, five people were rescued from the collapsed building overnight.
Rescuers tried to make their way through the rubble. They used circular saws to free several survivors.
State media showed firefighters cutting through a tangle of metal and concrete while rescuers shouted to communicate with survivors.
Some of the injured were carried on stretchers down a narrow alley while sniffer dogs combed the area for signs of life.
The authorities have not yet given an explanation for this catastrophe.
The state television CCTV nevertheless stated that “tenants had made structural changes to the premises to varying degrees”.
President Xi Jinping ordered a full investigation into the cause of the collapse and called for a search for the victims “at any cost,” state media reported.
A senior Communist Party official was dispatched to the scene, testifying to the gravity of the disaster.
Central government-appointed State Councilor Wang Yong has been dispatched to head a team that will “direct rescue and emergency operations,” according to an official statement released on Saturday.
This type of disaster is quite common in China due to the poor compliance with safety regulations and the services that are supposed to ensure their proper application are somewhat lax.
In January, an explosion believed to have been caused by a gas leak hit a building in the city of Chongqing, some 1,700 kilometers west of Shanghai, killing at least 16 people.
A gas pipeline explosion in a residential area in June 2021 killed 25 people in Hubei province (central).
In the same month, 18 people were killed when a fire broke out at a martial arts school. According to state media, all of the victims were boarders.