Row of houses collapses in China, killing at least 22

The death toll has risen to at least 22 in the collapse of a group of homes in eastern China, according to state media.There were six survivors pulled from the rubble on the outskirts of the city of Wenzhou in Zhejiang province, the Xinhua news agency said in a brief report, adding search and rescue efforts were “basically over”.

Pictures from the scene following the collapse showed workers in orange suits sifting through a mountain of rubble.“To protect those who are trapped, we are mainly digging with our bare hands so that work is going slowly,” fire department officer Sun Jing told Xinhua, adding that the debris was piled three storeys high.

The cause of the collapses on Monday was under investigation. Reports said the four buildings were built in the 1970s by their farmer owners and were in a highly degraded state. Extra floors had been added over the years, making them between three and five storeys high and further weakening their structures.

Five adjacent houses built in the 1970s remained standing, though rescuers were demolishing them to avoid secondary disasters, Xinhua said.

Poor construction quality has long been a problem in China, particularly in the countryside and smaller cities.

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