South Africa ends rescue efforts at collapsed building with 33 confirmed dead, 19 still missing

  • An exhaustive rescue operation to find missing construction workers trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building in South Africa is ending.
  • At least 33 people have been confirmed dead after the collapse of the unfinished five-story apartment complex in the city of George on May 6.
  • The death toll is expected to rise to over 50 as the operation transitions to recovery.

An exhaustive rescue operation to find missing construction workers trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building in South Africa will end on Friday after nearly two weeks and with 19 people still unaccounted for, authorities said.

At least 33 people have been confirmed dead after the collapse of the unfinished five-story apartment complex in the city of George on the country’s south coast on May 6.

That death toll is expected to ultimately increase to over 50 as it changes to a recovery and clear-up operation. The decision, announced by the George municipality and its disaster response unit, means rescuers don’t expect to find anyone else alive in the debris and are presuming that the remaining 19 workers who have been missing for 12 days are dead.

RESCUE EFFORTS FOR WORKERS TRAPPED IN SOUTH AFRICA BUILDING COLLAPSE CONTINUES, 1 MORE SURVIVOR FOUND

The tragedy was one of South Africa’s worst building collapses. Authorities say there were 81 workers on the site when the building came down. They say that 29 survivors were pulled from the rubble, with some of those still hospitalized.

Rescuers

A survivor is brought to the surface at the scene of a building collapse in the city of George, about 250 miles east of Cape Town, South Africa, on May 7, 2024. An exhaustive rescue operation to find missing construction workers trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building in South Africa will end on Friday after nearly two weeks and with 19 people still unaccounted for, authorities said. (AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht)

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa visited the collapsed building on Thursday to show support for the victims’ families, emergency workers and others who have been on the site for more than 250 hours, working night and day in shifts to try and find survivors.

More than 600 emergency responders and other personnel were part of the search in the days after the collapse, although that had been scaled down.

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There were some remarkable stories of survival amid the thousands of tons of concrete that collapsed, including a man who was found alive after being trapped for six days without food and water. Rescuers said he incredibly had only minor injuries.

As the rescue operation ends, the building will be handed over to the national department of employment and labor to conduct an investigation into the collapse, city authorities said. There will be multiple other investigations, including by police and the provincial Western Cape government.

Many of the workers were foreign nationals from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

The construction contractors responsible for the building have come under scrutiny and the investigations will probe whether they adhered to safety standards. The building was due to be completed in July or August.

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