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Hope fades for dozens missing days after South Africa building collapse as death toll rises to 12

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CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Hope was fading Friday for dozens of construction workers buried for days in the rubble of a building that collapsed in South Africa as the death toll rose to 12 and more than 40 remained missing.

Authorities said rescuers were now faced with the challenge of moving thousands of tons of concrete with heavy machinery to see if there are any more survivors.

Three more bodies were recovered from the wreckage of the five-story building that was under construction in the city of George on South Africa’s south coast when it collapsed on Monday. Another worker who was in critical condition died in the hospital earlier Friday, authorities said.

At least 41 workers are missing and — with fears that the final death toll could exceed 50 — city authorities said large earth-moving equipment had arrived and rescue teams were removing huge slabs of concrete and rubble to reach deeper into the wreckage.

Of the 28 who were rescued, many were in critical condition or had life-threatening injuries.

City authorities said it was still a rescue rather than a recovery operation, but no survivors have been located or brought out since Wednesday.

“Despite the introduction of large machinery, rescue techniques will still be applied meticulously and sensitively by the highly skilled and experienced disaster management team,” the city said in a statement. “The decision to switch to using heavy duty demolition equipment is not taken lightly.”

It also revised the number of missing up from 38 after determining that there were more construction workers at the site than previously thought. New information provided by the construction company showed there were 81 workers on the building when it came crashing down, not 75 as authorities had initially announced, the city said.

More than 600 personnel are involved in the rescue operation, with many brought in from nearby towns and cities. George, which is about 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of Cape Town, is a small city known as a vacation and golfing destination.

Authorities say multiple investigations are underway into the cause of the collapse, including by police, the provincial government and the national department of labor.


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Associated Press