Nearly two dozen people were killed when a row of ramshackle houses collapsed in the eastern China city of Wenzhou on Monday. State-run media described the casualties as primarily being migrant workers occupying substandard buildings in the prosperous trading and manufacturing port in Zhejiang province.
Six survivors were pulled from four buildings in Wenzhou’s Lucheng district which imploded at around 3:25 am, apparently without warning or immediate cause, according to media reports. Following a period of rapid growth China faces a problem of poorly constructed buildings that have sprung up in a loosely regulated environment and has a history of building collapses and other construction-related disasters in recent times.
Demolition Process Mysteriously Stopped
An account in the China Daily explained that the set of six-storey buildings had been “self-built by local residents” during the 1970s and had begun to be demolished a few years ago. The tear-down process was said to have stopped halfway through and the structures were later rented to migrant workers as housing.
In 2014 the local government had classified more than 1,400 buildings in Lucheng District as dangerous, and recommended that nearly 1,000 of those be vacated. Action on the condemned buildings was said to have been slowed by demands from owners and occupants for compensation.
Photos in the media showed troops of orange-clad rescue workers digging through the rubble with their hands in search of survivors. Comments by officials cited in the China Daily indicated, however, that rescue efforts had been concluded with no additional survivors found.
An Epidemic of Bad Construction
The Wenzhou disaster is the latest in a series of construction-related tragedies to strike in China. In December last year 22 buildings were knocked over and at least 69 people were killed when a man-made mountain built from years of construction waste gave way in a massive mudslide in a Shenzhen industrial zone.
In May of last year heavy rains in Guizhou province were said to cause another of what have come to be called “tofu buildings” in China to collapse, killing 16 people.