Fire services have recovered two more bodies from the rubble caused by the partial collapse of a new school in Antwerp yesterday afternoon. This morning came reports of a second fatality. Now a third body has been recovered.
The three casualties are said to include one Romanian and one Portuguese. The third victim has yet to be identified.
The school in the Nieuw Zuid district was still under construction, so no classes were present. The first count spoke of one dead, five missing, eight seriously injured.
Since then the first fatality was recovered from the wreckage, and a second person was found dead. Four people are still missing, and searcher dogs have been sent in to help.
The missing are thought to be Portuguese and Romanian workers living in Antwerp and employed legally by contractors.
The school, a primary school with pre-school and sports hall in the vicinity of Antwerp’s justice palace, is due to open to pupils at the start of the new school year on 1 September. For that reason works had been intensified. Then, yesterday afternoon, a piece of the building suddenly collapsed, taking down the scaffolding surrounding it.
The cause of the collapse is not known.
Fire services attended the scene immediately, and ten people could be freed from the wreckage. Nine were sent to hospital, eight of them with serious injuries. One suffered minor injuries.
The danger now is that a search for those who remain missing will be hampered by the unstable condition of the wreckage, made worse the farther rescuers head into the centre.
The fire service has now been joined by civil defence, bringing not only their sniffer dogs but also a drone to help search for survivors. The contractor, meanwhile, has brought in heavy equipment to help stabilise parts of the masonry to allow searching to proceed safely, not least for the dogs.
In the meantime the fire service has asked the public to avoid the area to let the rescuers work in peace.
Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever (N-VA) also asked that the emergency services be allowed to do their job.
“They are fully engaged in a rescue effort,” he said. “They need all the space, so avoid the site for the time being.”
The city also advised anyone living in the vicinity to keep doors and windows closed as much as possible to avoid the dust that may be stirred up by the wind in the course of the day. Emergency services are monitoring the situation.