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China quarantine hotel collapse kills 10

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A boy is rescued from the rubble of a collapsed hotel in Quanzhou, in China’s eastern Fujian province early on March 8, 2020. AFP

BEIJING (AFP) – At least 10 people were killed in the collapse of a hotel used as a coronavirus quarantine facility in eastern China, authorities said Sunday, with 23 others still feared trapped in the rubble.

Rescuers pulled 48 people from the wreckage, of whom 38 are still alive, the Ministry of Emergency Management said on social media.

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. The city has recorded 47 cases of the virus.

Video posted by the firefighting department showed rescuers putting a surgical mask on children as they were pulled from the rubble of the six-storey Xinjia hotel, including a twelve-year-old boy and another much younger child.

Rescuers were also shown spraying disinfectant on each other as part of  “strict decontamination” between shifts.

Footage published by local media, purportedly from security cameras across the street, showed the hotel collapsing in seconds.

Other videos circulating on the Twitter-like Weibo platform showed rescue workers combing through the rubble of the hotel in the dark as they reassured a woman trapped under heavy debris and carried injured people to ambulances.

The building’s facade appeared to have crumbled to the ground, exposing the structure’s steel frame.

Nine people escaped from the hotel on their own at the time of the collapse, the Ministry of Emergency Management said.

The building’s first floor has been undergoing renovation since before the Lunar New Year, and construction workers called the hotel’s owner minutes before the collapse to report a deformed pillar, the ministry said.

The building’s owner has been summoned by police, and local authorities are still determining whether it was the renovation or an original structural issue that caused the collapse, according to the ministry.

At the time of the collapse, 58 people who had recently been in regions hard-hit by COVID-19 were being quarantined in the hotel, and all had tested negative for the virus, local newspaper Quanzhou Evening News reported Sunday.

More than 800 commanders and 750 medical staff have been deployed in rescue efforts, along with 20 ambulances, the ministry said.

China’s National Health Commission also said it was sending eighteen medical experts from the nearby cities of Fuzhou and Xiamen to Quanzhou.

Building collapses and deadly construction accidents 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.

Another 10 were killed last year in Shanghai after the collapse of a commercial building during renovations.

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