Chinese police have arrested at least nine people following the collapse of a building in the central city of Changsha, as rescue workers continue to search for survivors trapped in the rubble.
Changsha police said on Sunday that the building’s owner and three others responsible for its design and construction were arrested on suspicion of “major responsibility for an accident”.
Another five people, all members of a private building inspection firm, “provided a false safety report after conducting a building safety audit of the hotel”, the statement on Twitter-like Weibo said.
Seven people have been pulled out alive from the rubble of the six-storey building located in central China’s Hunan province, with 16 other people believed to remain trapped, according to authorities.
The incident took place on Friday afternoon in Changsha city when the structure housing a hotel, apartments and a cinema caved in.
President Xi Jinping on Saturday called for a search “at all cost” and ordered a thorough investigation into the cause of the collapse, state media reported.
Search ‘at all cost’
No cause for the disaster has yet been given by authorities.
Changsha’s mayor pledged to “seize the golden 72 hours for rescue and try our best to search for the trapped people” in a news briefing on Saturday, adding that more than 700 first responders had been dispatched to the scene.
State media showed firefighters, backed by a digger, cutting through a morass of metal and sheets of concrete, while rescuers shouted into the tower of debris to communicate with any survivors.
A crowd gathered as chains of rescuers removed pieces of brick by hand, allowing experts a deeper look into the wreckage.
Some of the injured were rushed away on gurneys, while sniffer dogs combed the area for further signs of life.
A top Communist Party official was dispatched to the scene – an indication of the severity of the disaster.
China’s Minister of Emergency Management Huang Ming urged officials to “thoroughly eliminate all kinds of hidden safety risks” in a Saturday meeting.
Building collapses are not uncommon in China, due to weak safety and construction standards as well as corruption among officials tasked with enforcement.
In January, an explosion triggered by a suspected gas leak brought down a building in the city of Chongqing, killing at least 16 people.