Two dead after building collapse in central China

May 4, 2022: At least two people have died in a building that collapsed in central China, state media has reported, the first confirmed fatalities four days into a rescue operation searching for dozens still missing.

The commercial building in Changsha city, Hunan province – which housed apartments, a hotel and a cinema – caved in on Friday, sparking a massive response with hundreds of emergency workers.

By Tuesday, the flattened structure – which has left a gaping hole in a dense Changsha streetscape – was still a mess of debris and crumbled concrete beams.

The official Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday that two people have died, citing local officials.

According to a video published by the People’s Daily newspaper, emergency response expert Liang Buge said the two victims had shown “no signs of life”.

“We tried to remove them from the site, but found that they were pinned down by heavy objects, and there was no way to move them,” he said.

Earlier a woman was pulled out alive from the structure by emergency workers, state media said, hailing it as a “miracle”.

The state-run People’s Daily said the woman was conscious and able to talk to rescuers through a small hole before being rescued, adding that her “vital signs were stable”. She was the ninth person to be extracted from the debris in four days.

State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of a person wrapped in a thick striped blanket being carried on a stretcher while other rescuers applauded.

CCTV also released footage of rescuers using a small camera and microphone to communicate with a woman trapped behind the rubble – though it is unclear if it was the same person rescued on Tuesday.

“Please come and save me as soon as possible,” the woman could be heard pleading.

“We are trying to save you now and we can see your hands … If your legs aren’t comfortable, you should stay still and save your strength,” one rescuer responded.

At least 14 people are still known to be trapped in the rubble while no contact has been established with 39 others missing.

CCTV wrote on its official social media page on Tuesday: “Looking forward to more miracles.”

The day before, an eighth survivor was recovered from the site despite having had her limbs pinned down by debris.

Emergency medical workers had delivered a saline solution to her through three-metre tubes during a long rescue process, Xinhua said.

Eleven people – including the building’s owner and a team of safety inspectors – have been detained in connection with the collapse, including two people suspected of engaging in “illegal alteration” of the building, according to Changsha authorities.

Authorities have alleged that surveyors falsified a safety audit of the building. President Xi Jinping earlier called for a search “at all cost” and ordered a thorough investigation into the cause of the collapse, state media reported.

Building collapses are not uncommon in China due to weak safety and construction standards, as well as corruption among officials tasked with enforcement.

In January, an explosion triggered by a suspected gas leak brought down a building in the city of Chongqing, killing at least 16 people.

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