South Africa mall collapse: One dead and dozens injured by wreckage of half-built Durban shopping centre

Search and rescue operation called off after officials find just one body and no survivors in rubble

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The Independent Online

At least one person was killed and dozens injured after a half-built shopping centre collapsed near Durban, South Africa on Tuesday afternoon.

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Large numbers of construction workers were on site when a huge section of the unfinished building caved in, thought to be about the size of a football pitch, and was feared to have left many trapped in the rubble.

It is thought that 29 people were taken to hospital in the town of Tongaat, some 20 miles north of the coastal city of Durban, with a number said to have suffered "massive traumatic injuries".

A rescue team worked through the night and into the morning picking through the rubble, but the search operation was called off today after no survivors were found or bodies added to the one confirmed death last night.

"The scene is extremely horrific ... concrete big blocks have fallen on to people," said Chris Botha, a spokesman for the Netcare 911 emergency service.

Last night he spoke from the scene, telling broadcaster ENCA that the second floor of the structure had given way.

"The guys are busy using hydraulic rescue equipment to break through the concrete and get to some of the patients," he said.

While the cause of the collapse remains unclear, unconfirmed reports suggest the company building the mall had received a number of injunctions from local authorities - the latest on 14 November - ordering it to halt construction.

District mayor James Nxumalo told Talk Radio 702: "It looks like the company violated all of those court orders and now this tragedy happened."

Local media reports suggested that if safety regulations had indeed been flouted, and if South Africa's powerful unions were to suffer a high death toll among their workers as a result, it could be disastrous for the record of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) as it moves towards a general election next year.