70 trapped after China hotel used for coronavirus quarantine collapses

70 trapped after China hotel used for coronavirus quarantine collapses

china hotel collapse
A man is helped out of the rubble of a collapsed hotel by rescuers in Quanzhou, in China's eastern Fujian province on Mar 7, 2020. (Photo: STR / AFP)

BEIJING: About 70 people were trapped on Saturday (Mar 7) after a hotel being used for coronavirus quarantine collapsed in the Chinese city of Quanzhou in Fujian Province, the city's authority said on its website.

About four hours after the collapse, the Quanzhou municipality said 38 of the 70 or so people who had been in the Quanzhou Xinjia Hotel had been rescued.

A live video stream posted by the government-backed Beijing News site showed rescue workers in orange overalls clambering over mounds of rubble and carrying people towards ambulances gathered around the site.

The hotel's facade appeared to have crumbled into the ground, exposing the building's steel frame, and a crowd had gathered around the area as the evening wore on.

Beijing News said the Quanzhou Xinjia Hotel had been five storeys high.

It collapsed around 7.30pm local time (1130 GMT).

Dozens have so far been rescued from the rubble of the 80-room Xinjia hotel in Quanzhou city
Dozens have so far been rescued from the rubble of the 80-room Xinjia hotel in Quanzhou city. (Photo: AFP/STR)

"I was at a gas station and heard a loud noise. I looked up and the whole building collapsed. Dust was everywhere, and glass fragments were flying around," a witness said in a video posted on the Miaopai streaming app.

"I was so terrified that my hands and legs were shivering."

Fujian province authorities have sent around 150 rescue workers to the scene, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Representatives from Beijing are also en route to Quanzhou to assist in relief efforts, reported Xinhua news agency.

At least 37 people have so far been rescued from the rubble, the emergency management ministry said.

Officials have yet to confirm whether anyone has died in the accident.

No reason was given for the collapse of the hotel.

china hotel collapse
A woman (top of the ladder) is rescued from the rubble of a collapsed hotel in Quanzhou, in China's eastern Fujian province on Mar 7, 2020. (Photo: STR / AFP)

A woman named only by her surname, Chen, told the news site that relatives including her sister had been under quarantine at the hotel as prescribed by local regulations after returning from Hubei province, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak.

She said they had arrived on Feb 25 and had been scheduled to leave soon after completing their 14 days of quarantine.

"I can't contact them, they're not answering their phones," she said.

"I'm under quarantine too (at another hotel) and I'm very worried, I don't know what to do. They were healthy, they took their temperatures every day, and the tests showed that everything was normal."

The official People's Daily said the hotel had opened in June 2018 with 80 rooms and was being used to quarantine people during the coronavirus outbreak.

Beijing News' video stream was viewed by more than 2 million Weibo users on Saturday evening, and the hotel's collapse was the top trending topic on the Weibo site, China's close equivalent to Twitter.

Some users demanded a investigation into how the hotel could have collapsed.

Anger has been building up against the authorities in China over their early handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 3,300 people globally, most of them in China.

The Fujian provincial government said that as of Friday, the province had 296 cases of coronavirus and 10,819 people had been placed under observation after being classified as suspected close contacts.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the committee responsible for working safety under the State Council, China's cabinet, had sent an emergency working team to the site.

Quanzhou is a port city on the Taiwan Strait in the province of Fujian with a population of more than 8 million.

The Fujian provincial government said that as of Friday, the province had 296 cases of coronavirus and 10,819 people had been placed under observation after being classified as suspected close contacts.

China is no stranger to building collapses and deadly construction accidents, which 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.

Source: Agencies/ic/aj

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