DURBAN: One person was killed and as many as 50 were feared trapped after the roof of an under-construction mall collapsed near the South African city of Durban Tuesday, officials said.
Police spokeswoman Mandy Govender said one person was confirmed dead and at least 26 people have so far been pulled from the rubble.
“It was a mall building still under construction,” said Govender.
“Most of those still trapped inside the building were construction workers.”Emergency paramedics at the scene used sniffer dogs and specialist equipment to find survivors under the vast broken plinth of concrete and mesh of rebar.
“An estimated 50 are underneath the rubble,” said paramedic Neil Powell at the scene.
“It's pretty dark now and its getting unmanageable,” he added.
“It's a very big construction site, probably about 200 metres (656 foot) long.”
Powell said most of the injuries were “broken bones, multi-fractures and crush injuries... some are in severe condition, others are mild.”
The cause of the roof collapse was not immediately clear.
An eThekwini municipality fire official said emergency teams were working to secure the site.
“There is work in progress to try and stabilise the situation,” he said, refusing to give his name because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Earlier the private emergency medical care firm ER24 also said “as many as 50 people” were feared trapped at the mall.
ER24 added that one person was airlifted to hospital, 18 were seriously injured and two people were said to be in critical condition.
Chris Botha of Netcare 911, another private emergency service, said the accident happened around 4:30 pm (1430 GMT) local time.
Tongaat is around 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of the Indian Ocean city of Durban.
Cheap labour means it is not unusual to see hundreds of construction workers toiling away at a site in South Africa.