South Africa mall collapse kills 1, injures 29
Tongaat construction company was ordered to stop work in October
Rescue workers in South Africa are searching for any survivors in the rubble of a shopping mall under construction that partially collapsed, killing one person and injuring 29.
Police Lt. Mandy Govender said Wednesday that authorities were trying to ascertain the whereabouts of several workers who were reported missing following the collapse on Tuesday in Tongaat, near the eastern coastal city of Durban.
Police earlier said two people were killed. On Wednesday morning, Govender said one person was confirmed dead.
The South African Press Association quoted a municipal official as saying construction should not have been taking place because of irregularities in the work.
"We took them to court a month ago," Nomvuzo Shabalala said. "We thought they had stopped."
Fiona Moonean, a resident whose house is located across a railway line from the collapsed part of the mall, said she was washing dishes at the time of the incident, SAPA reported. A few days earlier, Moonean said, workers had started to remove the scaffolding.
"Just after 4.30 p.m., it was a thunderous sound. Before the bang, I heard too much scaffolding fall," Moonean told SAPA. "The whole concrete slab crashed down with the pillars. The smoke and dust was too thick. I heard them screaming out for help in Zulu."
She called emergency services and a woman took down her details, according to SAPA.
"She had to calm me down because I was so freaked out," Moonean said. "For me, the most traumatic is the sound of the guys' voices. That is the part that plays in my head."
Photographs taken by Crisis Medical, a medical response company, showed slabs of concrete and toppled scaffolding at the mall, which sits beside railway tracks. First responders parked their vehicles nearby, emergency lights flashing. Some carried stretchers with injured workers from the rubble.
Authorities appealed to residents in the area to stay away from the scene so that rescue teams could work more quickly.