Survivor pulled from China quarantine hotel collapse after 69 hours

Published: 04:57 PM, 10 Mar, 2020
Survivor pulled from China quarantine hotel collapse after 69 hours
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A survivor was rescued after 69 hours trapped under a collapsed hotel used as a coronavirus quarantine facility in eastern China Tuesday, as officials said the building had been illegally rebuilt several times.

Twenty people died when the 66-room hotel crumbled Saturday night, with 41 people rescued from the wreckage injured and nine still feared trapped.

The unidentified man was pulled out late Tuesday afternoon nearly three days after the building collapsed, according to the official Xinhua news agency, and sent to a nearby hospital.

The accident has exposed safety loopholes neglected by local authorities, Shang Yong, deputy head of the Ministry of Emergency Management, said at a press conference Tuesday.

"This hotel was illegally constructed and had repeatedly violated the regulations," Shang said, saying local officials had "neglected their supervision responsibilities."

Local media published video that appeared to show the hotel's facade crumbling to the ground in seconds, exposing the structure's steel frame.

The building in the coastal city of Quanzhou -- which has recorded 47 virus cases -- had been repurposed to house people who had recently been in regions hard hit by COVID-19, according to local newspaper Quanzhou Evening News.

Video posted online Tuesday by the Ministry of Emergency Management showed rescuers bowing over the body of a victim, with one rescuer breaking down in tears and leaving the scene.

Earlier footage from the ministry showed rescuers helping children don surgical masks before pulling them from the remains of the six-storey Xinjia hotel.

A 12-year-old boy told emergency workers his mother was still buried in the rubble.

"She was next to me just now," he said in the video. His mother was pulled out alive hours later, according to the ministry.

Rescuers were also seen spraying disinfectant on each other, part of "strict decontamination" measures between shifts.

Besides the 61 people pulled out, nine others escaped on their own, the ministry said.

The first floor had been undergoing renovation since before the Lunar New Year holiday, and authorities said construction workers called the hotel's owner minutes before the collapse to report a deformed pillar.

The owner has been summoned by police while investigators work to determine whether the renovation or an original structural issue was at fault, according to the ministry.

Quanzhou Evening News reported Sunday that all of the people quarantined in the hotel had tested negative for the virus.

The emergency management ministry said some 200 local and 800 Fujian province firefighters had been deployed to the scene along with 11 search and rescue teams and seven rescue dogs, according to Xinhua.

The National Health Commission said it had dispatched to Quanzhou 18 medical experts from the nearby cities of Fuzhou and Xiamen.

China is no stranger to building collapses and deadly construction accidents that are typically blamed on the country's rapid growth leading to corner-cutting by builders and the widespread flouting of safety rules.

At least 20 people died in 2016 when a series of crudely-constructed multi-storey buildings packed with migrant workers collapsed in the eastern city of Wenzhou.

Categories : Topics, Oddities

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