A 5-month-old girl was rescued on Wednesday from the rubble of a building that collapsed in Jordan's capital Amman, police said, as government engineers voiced suspicions that the removal of a retaining wall had caused the structure to fall.
Officials said that at least nine people were killed and 16 injured when the four-storey residential building came down in the city's Jabal Al Weibdeh district on Tuesday.
Jordan's building codes are fairly robust but work on older structures is often unmonitored. Neighbours said the collapsed building, constructed on a slope, is at least 50 years old and expansion work was under way on a ground-floor apartment when the structure came down.
A police statement said the baby's condition is being assessed at a nearby hospital, where she was transported in the late afternoon.
“First aid was administered to the baby and she was transported to hospital,” the statement said.
Four deceased people were pulled from the rubble and another person was discovered alive on Wednesday, police said.
Rescuers said as many as seven other people could be trapped under the rubble, although Civil Defence said that no accurate number can be given.
Civil Defence crews aided by street cleaners wearing green overalls were using jackhammers to dig access holes in slabs of concrete they said had made up the roof. A crane, bulldozer and lorries were being used to remove rubble from the site.
“We have identified sections where people could be trapped,” one rescuer, who asked not to be named, told The National.
“The whole structure fell like a sandwich.”
Government engineers sent to assess the cause of the collapse watched the scene from a nearby building.
One of them, who spoke to The National on condition of anonymity and citing an official investigation, said: “The way the building collapsed is consistent with a retaining wall on the ground level torn down.”
Another engineer said they had received reports that expansion work was going on in a ground-floor apartment before the building collapsed.
“It is an old building and it does not have the redundancy measures in newer buildings,” he said, using an engineer's term for safety features built into a design.
Neighbours confirmed that expansion work was taking place.
Amal, who lives right next door to the building, said a 19-year-old woman and a baby were among the dead.
“I was outside when I heard the noise. I thought it was our building that went down,” she said.
Jabal Al Weibdeh resident Samer, the superintendent of a commercial complex next to the site, said he heard a loud bang and saw plumes of sand and dust rising into the sky as the building collapsed.
“It shook the whole of Weibdeh,” he said.
He said he saw the body of a woman being removed from the wreckage.
Jabal Al Weibdeh is an older district of the capital popular among foreign students studying Arabic. In recent years, shisha cafes and fast food restaurants have opened in the area but the district still retained some of its original, mostly middle-class population.
Jordan's King Abdullah II, who is in Paris on an official visit, called police chief Obaidallah Maaytah “to ensure utmost effort continues to save the people trapped under the rubble”, the Royal Court said.