August 31, 2007 / 11:36 AM / 11 years ago

Death toll from Azeri building collapse reaches 12

Rescue workers search through the debris of a collapsed building in Baku August 28, 2007. REUTERS/Trend/Handout

BAKU (Reuters) - The death toll from a building collapse in Azerbaijan’s capital has risen to 12 and it is unlikely an estimated 15 people trapped under the rubble are still alive, emergency services said on Friday.

The building near the centre of Baku, which was still under construction, collapsed on Tuesday. Officials said they believed shoddy building work was to blame.

“At this moment, 12 people have died,” said emergencies ministry spokesman Tural Museibov. “The search is going on for 15 people.”

Rescue workers had been in mobile telephone contact with a group of people who said they were trapped in the building’s basement, but officials said their phones were no longer answering.

“Too much time has passed from the moment of the collapse so, it is unlikely that there are people alive under the rubble. Nonetheless the operation goes on,” Deputy Emergencies Minister Faik Tagizade said on state television.

The capital of Azerbaijan, an oil-producing ex-Soviet republic, has been experiencing a construction boom with high-rise buildings springing up across the city on the shore of the Caspian Sea.

But local media have alleged that much of the construction is sub-standard and in violation of safety standards. They also say developers bypass building regulations by bribing corrupt officials.

On Thursday, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev ordered safety checks on all buildings under construction across the country. He said if safety violations are found, building work should be halted.

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