BEIJING, China (4th UPDATE) – The death toll from the collapse of a coronavirus quarantine hotel in east China rose to 26 on Wednesday, March 11, with 3 more people feared still trapped in the rubble, according to state media.
Dozens of people were pulled alive from the wreckage of the six-storey Xinjian hotel in the coastal city of Quanzhou but 26 others were either found dead in the ruins or have since died of their injuries, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Six of the deaths were reported on Wednesday.
The building in the coastal city of Quanzhou had been repurposed to house people who recently had contact with patients confirmed with COVID-19, the state-run People’s Daily newspaper reported. (READ: ‘It’s humiliating’: China’s virus controls raise hackles)
Video posted online by the ministry’s firefighting department 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 rescuers his mother was still buried in the rubble.
“She was next to me just now,” he said in the video. His mother was rescued alive hours later, according to the ministry.
Another video released by the ministry showed rescuers squirting water from a bottle into the mouth of a trapped man.
Rescuers were also seen spraying disinfectant on each other as part of “strict decontamination” measures between shifts.
Collapsed in seconds
Footage published by local media appears to show the hotel collapsing in seconds, with the building’s facade crumbling to the ground, exposing the structure’s steel frame.
The first floor had been undergoing renovation since before the Lunar New Year holiday, and construction workers called the hotel’s owner minutes before the collapse to report a deformed pillar, authorities said.
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.
Fifty-eight people who had recently been in regions hard hit by COVID-19 were being quarantined in the hotel but all had tested negative for the virus, local newspaper Quanzhou Evening News reported Sunday.
More than 800 rescuers and 750 medical staff were deployed for the rescue effort along with 20 ambulances, the ministry said.
China’s National Health Commission said it was sending to Quanzhou 18 medical experts from the nearby cities of Fuzhou and Xiamen.
Building collapses and other deadly construction accidents have typically been blamed on the country’s rapid economic growth, which has led to corner-cutting by builders and the 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.
Another 10 were killed last year in Shanghai after the collapse of a commercial building during renovations. – Rappler.com