Nine dead after block of flats collapses in Black Sea city of Batumi

Four hundred members of Georgia’s emergency services worked for 29 hours to find survivors (Ministry of Internal Affairs, Georgia)
Nine people, including three children, were killed in the Georgian city of Batumi after a five-storey residential building collapsed on Friday.

Georgian police said the disaster was caused by refurbishment work that was under way in one of the building’s 12 apartments.

Two people doing the work and the owner of the flat have been detained by police. If charged, they could face between two and 10 years in prison.

Police said the renovation was done “in gross violation of safety rules”.

Up to 400 police and firefighters worked for 29 hours to find survivors in the rubble of the building, which was situated on 26 May Street in the north of the city.

Two people were taken to hospital, where one later died.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs said search and rescue operations had now been completed.

On Saturday Vakhtang Gomelauri, the minister of internal affairs, said: “First of all, I would like to express my condolences to the families of the [deceased]. It is a very difficult situation. Nine people are dead and I would like to offer my condolences to everyone. Yesterday was the hardest day just like today. We have just found the body of the ninth victim.”

He added: “Police will stay at the scene. It is expected that this street will be closed to prevent movement of civilians. Barriers will be arranged in the backyard as well to prevent people from entering the area, which might pose a threat.”

The Georgian government has declared 11 October a national day of mourning. Flags on government buildings will be flown at half mast and entertainment events have been cancelled.

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