All four of the people still missing under the ruins of the Antwerp school that collapsed on Friday have been recovered. There were no survivors.
The combined pre-school and primary school was still under construction to be ready in time for the new school year in September. Suddenly the scaffolding around the building crashed to the ground, followed by part of the building itself.
Engineers from the contractors and the city of Antwerp are still trying to work out the cause of the collapse. At the same time, a specialist investigator from the Antwerp prosecutor’s office has also been detailed to the case.
The initial count of victims revealed one person dead, extracted from the rubble immediately, as well as eight people seriously injured and one with minor injuries. Initially, five people were missing in the wreckage.
The search for those victims carried on through the night of Friday to Saturday, when one more body was found. By daylight, drones were being used to cover the area to look for signs of life, while sniffer dogs, able to go where no man could go, were sent into the collapsed building.
By early evening yesterday, the missing had all been accounted for. There were no survivors. Details are being withheld from the press and public until families have been informed. Many of those working on the site are foreign workers, and contacting the families may take some time.
Last night, emergency services were still on-site in expectation of heavy weather. Afterwards they will leave the scene for the contractors to clean up. It remains unclear whether the school will be able to open in September after all.
“It’s unbelievable that this can happen to a building that is nearing completion,” said Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever.
“Children should already be here in September. The city engineer is not optimistic about the building, which means we may have to tear it down.”
And he pointed to the fact that the victims – three Portuguese, one Romanian and one Russian – are not Belgians, which gives the grief a European dimension:
“The tears do not fall only in our country. The ambassadors from the countries of the victims are here, those communities living in our city.”
Antwerp city police posted on Twitter:
Our hearts are with the relatives and workmates of the victims at Nieuw-Zuid.”
Ons hart klopt voor de nabestaanden en werkmakkers van de slachtoffers op Nieuw-Zuid.