BEIJING, China, March 10 ------ Rescuers are searching for 19 people who remain trapped in rubble following the collapse of a hotel used as a coronavirus quarantine facility in eastern China on Saturday, state media reported. A total of 48 people have been rescued out of the 67 initially trapped when the building first crumbled, state broadcaster CCTV said Sunday. Footage circulating on Twitter-like Weibo showed rescue workers combing through the rubble of the 80-room Xinjia hotel in coastal Quanzhou city in the dark as they reassured a woman trapped under heavy debris and carried wounded victims into ambulances.
Other footage published by local media, purportedly from security cameras across the street, showed the entire hotel collapsing in seconds. A total of 43 people have so far been rescued from the wreckage, state news agency Xinhua said. The hotel's facade appeared to have crumbled into the ground, exposing the building's steel frame, and a crowd gathered as the evening wore on. Officials have yet to confirm whether anyone died in the accident.
China's Ministry of Emergency Management said some 200 local and 800 Fujian Province firefighters had been deployed to the scene along with 11 search and rescue teams and seven rescue dogs, according to Xinhua. Quanzhou authorities said ambulances, excavators and cranes had also been rushed to the site. Representatives from Beijing are also en route to Quanzhou to assist in relief efforts, Xinhua reported. Quanzhou has recorded 47 cases of the COVID-19 infection and the hotel, which opened two years ago, was 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 that 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-story 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.