A hotel in southeastern China collapsed Saturday, trapping 71 people among the wreckage, authorities said per a BBC report. According to local media outlets, the building had recently become a quarantine center due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
As first covered by Reuters, the bizarre incident occurred in Quanzhou, China at around 6:30 a.m. ET. Ongoing search and rescue efforts have recovered 48 people as of Sunday afternoon, 38 of whom were hospitalized, per an Al Jazeera report. At least 10 people were killed in the collapse. Footage of the scene shared by the Xinhua News Agency shows orange-clad emergency workers combing through towering piles of what used to be the Xinjia Hotel and distributing aid to people still trapped beneath the debris.
Exactly why the five-story structure collapsed wasn’t immediately clear. However, a preliminary investigation has revealed that the building’s first floor was undergoing renovation at the time. Authorities said that, just minutes before the collapse, a construction crew called the hotel’s owner to inform him of a deformed pillar, per Al Jazeera. Xinhua reported that the owner has since been taken into custody by police.
Officials were using the facility to quarantine people who either tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus behind this ongoing global outbreak, or had previously come into contact with someone infected, according to the People’s Daily, China.
After news of the incident went viral on Weibo, a popular microblogging platform in China akin to Twitter, it prompted significant public outcry for a thorough investigation into how the building collapsed.
More than 100,000 cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed worldwide, according to the World Health Organization’s latest situation report. In China, the outbreak has infected more than 80,000 people and is responsible for 3,000 deaths.
Update, 3/8/20, 2:02 PM ET: This report was updated with new information from multiple outlets concerning rescued and deceased victims as well as the investigation behind the collapse.