South Korean rescue workers at a collapsed construction site in the southern city of Gwangju located a man amid a pile of debris and broken concrete on their third day searching for six missing construction workers, officials said Thursday.
Crews are trying to clear out the rubble to reach the man, but have yet to confirm whether he is alive or one of the missing workers, said Yoo Man-geun, a Gwangju city official.
Dozens of rescue workers, assisted by dogs and drones equipped with thermal cameras, are searching the site, but their efforts have been slowed over worries about the stability of the high-rise building, which had been under construction in the city’s Hwajeongdong district before it partially collapsed on Tuesday.
HDC Hyundai Development, the main contractor for the apartment project, plans to deploy unmanned excavators to clear out the rubble and to use nettings and other safety measures in case the structure further crumbles, Gwangju Mayor Lee Yong-seop said.
About 10 vehicles were destroyed and nearly 200 households and shops nearby were forced to evacuate following the partial collapse of the building, which sent debris spilling across nearby streets and left a huge pile of rubble beneath the towering, 39-floor structure that is now exposing mangled steel beams.
The incident has triggered public anger in a country that has long grappled with deadly accidents attributed to lax safety standards and regulations, which experts say were often overlooked as the country rose from poverty and war to an Asian economic powerhouse.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday ordered officials to investigate the cause of Tuesday’s collapse and called for stronger safety measures to prevent similar accidents.
Officials said 394 workers had been employed at the construction site, including the six who remain unaccounted for following the accident.
Emergency workers rescued three laborers on Tuesday, including two who had been trapped in a shipping container pounded by debris, but search operations were halted hours later over concerns that the structure could further cave in.
The search resumed on Wednesday following a safety inspection by government and private experts, who concluded it was safe for rescuers to search the building’s interior. The inspectors were concerned about sections near the structure’s crumbled exterior and the heap of rubble, which were predominantly searched by dogs and drones.
Gwangju’s city government has suspended all ongoing construction work in Gwangju by HDC as it opened an investigation into the cause of the accident.
HDC was also involved in a deadly accident in Gwangju last June, when a five-story building that was being demolished for a construction project collapsed and sent debris falling onto a bus, killing nine people on board.