Eleven people were killed when the roof of a school gymnasium caved in in northeastern China.
The tragedy happened on Sunday around 15:00 at the No. 34 Middle School in Qiqihar, Heilongjiang Province, set.
A total of 19 people were in the gym when the roof collapsed; 11 of them died, four more got away in time and five victims were rescued from the rubble.
The Xinhua news agency reports that the roof collapse was caused by construction workers illegally placing perlite – a form of volcanic glass – on the building’s roof.
Heavy rain caused the perlite to swell and get heavier, causing the roof to collapse.
A search and rescue operation involving around 160 firemen and 39 fire engines was launched after the collapse.
CCTV footage from China Central Television (CCTV) shows that the roof, made of concrete slabs, has completely collapsed. Rescuers then broke through large chunks of concrete and twisted metal in an attempt to reach the victims.
One worker used an air drill to break through the concrete.
Death toll from gym roof collapse in northeast China rises to 11https://t.co/L9X3rHiHMP pic.twitter.com/RQNqvGIyPT
— CCTV+ (@CCTV_Plus) July 24, 2023
An in-depth investigation was launched after the accident and those in charge of the construction site were taken into custody.
A reliable source told Chongqing News on condition of anonymity that concerns about the safety of the roof had already been raised before the incident.
“The gym was built more than 20 years ago and has been giving in to places for a long time,” said the source. “Everyone was worried that something was going to happen to all the stuff that was piled up on the roof.”
Industrial accidents are common in China due to lax safety standards and their poor enforcement.
An explosion at a restaurant in northwestern China claimed the lives of 31 people last month. This led to the launch of a nationwide campaign to promote safety in the workplace.
A fire broke out in a hospital in Beijing in April, killing 29 people. People jumped out of windows out of desperation to escape the flames.
At least 165 people also died in 2015 after a huge explosion at a chemical warehouse in Tianjin.