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Four killed in Hong Kong building collapse

world Updated: Jan 30, 2010 10:17 IST

AFP
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Rescue workers on Saturday pulled a fourth body from the rubble of a rundown housing block that collapsed in Hong Kong as the government ordered urgent checks on all buildings more than 50 years old.

The five-storey building, built in the 1950s, collapsed in seconds on Friday afternoon in Kowloon district, witnesses told local television.

Rescuers retrieved a fourth body early Saturday following an overnight search, the government said in a statement.

"She was certified dead at the scene," it said. "So far, four persons died and two (were) injured in the collapse."

Rescue workers were continuing to search for a fifth person believed to be trapped in the rubble, broadcaster RTHK said. Reports said renovation work was being carried out on the building but the cause of the collapse was unclear.

About 100 people affected by the collapse spent the night in two community centres.

Au Choi-kai, director of buildings, said a repair order had been served on the owners of the block this month. But he added that its condition was not bad enough to order its closure, RTHK reported.

Development Secretary Carrie Lam has ordered checks on all buildings more than 50 years old, it said.

The South China Morning Post described it as "the worst incident of its kind in the city in decades".

Reports said the building collapsed in a matter of seconds.

"I saw bits and pieces of earth and tiles sliding down the wall at the beginning... a woman was trying to climb out through the window. About 15 seconds later, the building fell like dominoes," a passer-by told Cable TV.

Decades-old, rundown residential blocks are often interspersed with high rises in Hong Kong, an international financial hub famous for its high population density and fast pace of redevelopment.