Rescue efforts in Tongaat suspended

The Department of Labour says it needs to reassess the construction site before continuing.

Rescuers search for construction workers still unaccounted for under the rubble a day after a floor collapsed at a mall under construction in Tongaat on 19 November 2013. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Rescue efforts were suspended on Wednesday at the site of a building which collapsed in Tongaat in KwaZulu-Natal.

One of the levels of the shopping mall caved in on construction workers while they were changing shifts.

The Department of Labour has since taken control of the scene where paramedics were carrying out rescue operations.

One person died and 29 others were injured.

Department spokesperson Nhlanhla Khumalo says they aren't sure if any people might still be trapped.

"We are of the opinion that there may be people trapped underneath."

Khumalo says inspectors need to assess the site before operations can continue.

"At this point, we're temporarily stopping any movement on site as we're still looking at any logistical issues."

SHODDY CONSTRUCTION

It emerged on Tuesday the eThekwini Municipality thought construction was not taking place anymore following a series of court battles.

Mayor James Nxumalo says the company behind the mall's construction, Gralio Construction, had no approved building plans.

He says several court orders were obtained against the company throughout the year, with the most recent case taking place in November.

Gralio Construction was instructed to halt all operations last week.

In 2009, company owner Jay Singh was convicted of bribing an eThekwini municipal official to overlook sub-standard building.

According to reports last year, Gralio Construction was identified in a damning report after it was irregularly awarded two low-cost housing tenders.

Over 20 units had to be demolished when residents complained of walls giving way when pushed.

As a result, costs soared from R70 million to R350 million.

Despite its track record, Gralio Construction's contract for a flagship housing project in eThekwini was extended two weeks ago.

The Democratic Alliance and Inkatha Freedom Party in the area questioned Singh's relationship with the ruling party.