At least five people have died and dozens more are believed to be trapped under rubble after a multi-storey apartment building under construction in South Africa collapsed.

Officials in the city of George, on the country’s southern coast, say 49 people are still trapped while 21 have been taken to various hospitals, at least 11 of them having suffered severe injuries.

More than 100 emergency staff and other responders have worked through the night using sniffer dogs and tall spotlights to try to locate workers buried in the mangled wreckage for more than 12 hours.

Rescuers have been working in three teams at separate sites around the collapsed building where they believed construction workers were likely to be.

It’s feared some are under huge slabs of concrete that fell on them when the five-storey building fell on Monday afternoon, local time, in the city, around 250 miles (400km) east of Cape Town.

Large cranes and other heavy lifting equipment have been brought in to remove debris.

Rescuers made contact with 11 workers trapped in the rubble and were hopeful of bringing them out, Colin Deiner, the chief director of the provincial Western Cape Disaster Management and Fire and Rescue Services, said.

Mr Denier said some of them were talking to rescuers but couldn’t move because they had limbs trapped under concrete.

He said: “It’s a very tough operation. There’s a lot of concrete… so we think it will still take quite a while. The search operation will continue all day. We’ve got a lot of people on the scene but it’s really, really hard work.

“So many people trapped in a building like that is like searching for a needle in a haystack. You literally have to break through the concrete and cut through the reinforcing.”

Western Cape premier Alan Winde, the head of the provincial government, who was at the scene, said: “Seventy-five members of construction crew have been confirmed on site at that time of the incident.

“All the necessary support has been offered to emergency personnel to expedite their response. At the moment, officials are focused on saving lives. This is our top priority at this stage.”

The national government was being briefed on the rescue operation, Mr Winde said.

CCTV footage recorded at 2.09pm obtained by Reuters showed a cloud of dust over the neighborhood as the building’s concrete structure and the metal scaffolding around it came crashing down.

People came streaming out of other buildings after the collapse, some screaming and shouting.

Pictures from a drone camera showed a completely flattened construction site, with parts of the building’s roof lying on top of the rubble.

As family and friends of the workers gathered at nearby municipal offices, George’s executive mayor Leon Van Wyk said: “Our thoughts are with the families and all those affected who continue to wait on word of their loved ones.


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