Dozens trapped after coronavirus quarantine centre collapses in China

Nearly 40 people were pulled from rubble of hotel in Quanzhou city but at least four were dead

Rescue workers are seen on the site where a hotel being used for the novel coronavirus quarantine collapsed in the southeast Chinese port city of Quanzhou, Fujian province, China March 7, 2020. Picture taken March 7, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT.
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Four people were killed and dozens trapped after a hotel used as a coronavirus quarantine facility in eastern China collapsed on Saturday evening, the Ministry of Emergency Management said.
The local government in coastal Quanzhou city said at least 70 people were trapped in the rubble of the 80-room Xinjia hotel while at least 42 people were pulled from the wreckage.

Of those, four were confirmed dead, four had severe injuries and one was in critical condition, the ministry said.

Footage circulating on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo showed rescue workers combing through the building's wreckage in the dark and reassuring a woman trapped under heavy debris as other victims were carried into ambulances.

A man is helped out of the rubble of a collapsed hotel by rescuers in Quanzhou, in China's eastern Fujian province on March 7, 2020. Around 70 people were trapped after the Xinjia Hotel collapsed on March 7 evening, officials said. - China OUT
 / AFP / STR

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

According to state media outlet Xinhua, the owner of the building, a man surnamed Yang, has been summoned by police.

The building's first floor had been under renovation at the time of the collapse, the news agency said.

“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.

epa08276672 A rescuer follows an injured man walking out of the rubbles of a collapsed five-story hotel building in Quanzhou city in southeast China's Fujian province, 07 March 2020. Over 70 people, mostly people in isolation as a COVID-19 precaution, are feared trapped in the rubbles of the collapsed hotel.  EPA/XIAO FAN CHINA OUT

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

A woman identified only by her surname, Chen, told the Beijing News website that relatives including her sister had been under quarantine at the hotel as prescribed by local regulations after returning from Hubei province, where the coronavirus emerged.

She said they had been scheduled to leave soon after completing their 14 days of isolation.

“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.”

Quanzhou authorities said more than 700 rescue workers had been sent to the site along with ambulances, excavators and cranes.

Representatives from Beijing were travelling to Quanzhou to assist in relief efforts, Xinhua news agency reported.

Quanzhou has recorded 47 cases of the Covid-19 virus and the hotel, which opened just two years ago, was recently repurposed to house people who had been in recent contact with confirmed patients, the People's Daily state newspaper reported.

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.