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The BBC's Damian Grammaticus, in Hong Kong
"If it is proved that illegal construction caused this collapse, those responsible can expect severe punishment"
 real 56k

Sunday, 3 December, 2000, 10:05 GMT
Four arrested over China mall collapse
Collapsed shopping centre
The site is now being cleared by construction workers
Police in southern China have arrested four people in connection with the collapse of a popular shopping mall in which at least eight people died.

Among the four detained was the owner of the one-storey building in the city of Dongguan city which crumbled on Friday as construction workers were illegally adding two more floors, state media said.

While the official Xinhua news agency put the death toll at eight dead and 32 injured, some witnesses and local reports suggested many more were buried in the debris.

Officials abandoned hope of finding more survivors on Saturday and construction workers have begun to clear up the site.

No consent

Police detained the owner of the shopping mall, its designer and contractor, and the head of local authority, according to the Xinhua news agency.

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The news agency said local authorities had not approved the construction work and neither the designer nor the contractor had licences.

It did not say if they would be charged. Initial investigations suggested the building's foundations, built over a drainage ditch, subsided under the weight of the extra storeys.

One survivor said he heard unusual sounds coming from the structure shortly before it gave way on Friday afternoon.

"There was a loud rumbling sound and I thought it was an earthquake. But within seconds the building just crumbled before my eyes," he said.


There was a loud rumbling sound and I thought it was an earthquake. But within seconds the building just crumbled before my eyes

Survivor

A spokesman for the local fire brigade told the BBC that many people managed to escape when they saw cracks appear in the walls minutes before the building came down.

One survivor said shoppers had left in fear after seeing the cracks, but "some people said there was no problem, so we came back."

The Chinese Government has been trying to impose higher standards on its construction industry after a series of fatal accidents caused by bad workmanship.

The BBC's Damian Grammitacas in Hong Kong says if it is proved that illegal construction caused this collapse, those responsible can expect severe punishment.

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