A 24-story apartment building under construction in the wealthy south of Medellin, El Poblado, collapsed on Saturday. Eleven people were reported missing by local authorities that are going through the rubble. Two were injured.
The number of casualties was relatively low as cracks in the walls forced the evacuation of tower six of the brand new apartment complex on Friday evening.
The majority of men missing are construction workers who had been sent to the site to make repairs.
“So many hours have gone by and there has been no movement,” said Gloria Echeverri, the partner of one of the construction workers who was working on securing the building after residents discovered structural damage.
“We hope to rescue these people alive, but with this magnitude we have to be realistic. We have been carrying out rescue work for 11 or 12 hours and we haven’t received any signs of life of them. All technology has been used, we have used dogs that are specially trained for rescue operations and we definitely haven’t received any good news,” city official Santiago Perez told RCN Radio.
Following the collapse, city authorities ordered all workers to evacuate as a second tower of the six-tower building also threatened to come down. However, construction company CDO, owned by Conservative Party mogul and former Governor and Mayor Alvaro Villegas, said there existed no risks for other towers to come down.
Residents from another tower in the same complex blamed poor construction materials for the collapse. The apartments in the collapsed block were completed earlier this year.
“You’d put in a nail and the whole wall would come down,” the owner of one apartment told Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.
Collapsing buildings are common in the slums of Medellin where houses are built on steep hills and landslides occur during the rainy season. The last time a building collapsed in the wealthy south was in November 2008, when a landslide swept away nine homes, killing 12.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said Medellin city authorities had averted a great disaster by ordering the evacuation of the tower block on Saturday.
“We have a low number of victims considering what could have happened if there had been no evacuation,” he said.
The construction company had insisted that the building was not at “any risk” of collapse and that the cracks were due to “localised damage” on the fourth floor.