One dead in Ningbo apartment collapse

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 April, 2014, 3:35am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 April, 2014, 3:35am

An apartment building that officials said was home to 15 families collapsed near the port city of Ningbo yesterday morning, killing at least one resident and injuring several others.

Rescuers continued to search the debris in the hopes of finding any additional survivors.

Seven residents were pulled from the remains of the flattened apartment block, but one victim, an unidentified woman aged 68, died from her injuries at hospital.

The seventh person, a 21-year-old woman college student whose legs were trapped for eight hours, was pulled out just before 6pm. The other victims, three men and two women, suffered minor to serious injuries, with two placed in intensive care in hospital.

The collapse occurred at 9am when most residents were either commuting to work or preparing for the upcoming Ching Ming festival.

People living on the ground floor heard a loud noise in the morning and felt the building was about to shift.

They shouted: "Get out! The building is falling."

The reason for the collapse is under investigation.

Residents said that after a recent typhoon the building started to make strange sounds, state television reported.

According to officials in Fenghua , a small city on the outskirts of Ningbo in Zhejiang province, the apartment block was built in 1994.

Residents told local media government inspectors conducted a safety check about a month ago and declared the building safe but in need of repairs.

A government pledge to cover half the cost of repairs was dismissed by residents. They said cracks and crumbling concrete had worsened in recent years.

At a briefing on Friday afternoon, Fenghua officials admitted the building received a "C" rating after last month's check, indicating structural problems made parts of the building unsuitable for living.

Professor Yan Peiyu , a building safety expert with Tsinghua University's department of civil engineering, said the apartment block suffered a "structural failure" based on photos of the scene.

"A dramatic collapse like this points to problems in the original construction plan, if there even was a plan," Yan said.

The five-storey structure was part of a block of similar low-rise residential buildings, the Fenghua government said.

Police evacuated residents of four other buildings built around the same year.

It was the second residential building collapse in Ningbo since 2012, when a woman was killed in a similar incident.

Additional reporting by Wu Nan