Six workmen hurt in building collapse

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The Independent Online

At least six workmen were injured today when a building under construction collapsed.

Concrete was being poured into an area of the second floor which apparently gave way.

A number of workers had to be pulled free from falling steel girders, scaffolding and rubble.

Emergency services rushed to Victoria Street, near the centre of Belfast, where a new office block for the Northern Ireland Law Society was being built. It is due to open in 2009.

But today it was a scene of devastation as a major rescue operation was mounted.

It is believed that up to 60 workmen were on the site at the time and early this afternoon a search was under way to find out if anybody was trapped.

It is understood the two most seriously injured workers are Polish and employed by a company from Omagh, Co Tyrone.

Brendan Collins, 23, was beside the building when the scaffolding crashed to the ground.

He said: "I was in a lorry, pouring concrete. It looks like the supports underneath the building gave way, which caused machinery to fall on top of the workers.

"I helped to rescue them. I ran in with four or five other fellows and lifted the machinery off one of them. He was covered in blood and completely crushed."

The new building will eventually consist of seven floors of offices with ground floor shops and underground parking.

The men were working on the second floor of the construction site when it collapsed.

Tommy Combs, a security guard in a nearby office block, said: "I heard the crashing and ran out and it was in the process of collapsing. They were pouring concrete at the time and the workmen were shouting and screaming.

"It was like slow motion, just like watching a matchstick house collapse - there was complete pandemonium - it's just unbelievable."

All the workers were rescued alive and Mr Combs said: "They are damned lucky to have come out of that alive. I felt certain somebody had to be killed in it."