Death Toll in Tel Aviv Collapse Rises to 3; Palestinian, Israeli Workers Feared Trapped

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Teams from the Home Front Command worked overnight to clear the wreckage at the site of the collapsed construction site in Tel Aviv, September 6, 2016.
Teams from the Home Front Command worked overnight to clear the wreckage at the site of the collapsed construction site in Tel Aviv, September 6, 2016.Credit: David Bachar

The death toll in the collapse of a parking garage in Tel Aviv has risen to three as rescue forces found a lifeless body in the debris Tuesday morning. At least four more were still feared trapped after the multi-level parking lot, still under construction, collapsed Monday morning, injuring over 20 people, police said.

Among those missing and feared dead are two Palestinians and two Israelis. The body of one of those killed was pulled out from the debris around noon on Tuesday. The Foreign Ministry said that one of the dead was a foreign worker.

One of the missing workers has been identified as Taleb Dawabsheh, a 29-year-old Palestinian father of two from the West Bank village of Duma, a community that made headlines last year for the deadly arson murder of three members of the Dawabsheh family.

Workers at the site told Haaretz that in addition to the man, another Palestinian called Aehed Arimawi from Beit Rima in the West Bank was also missing.

Another man, identified as Ruslan Iskov from Saffed, was also missing, alongside another worker also from the city whose name is barred from publication.

Rescue workers from the Home Front Command at the site of the collapsed multi-level parking garage under construction in Tel Aviv.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Two others were rescued Monday from the underground structure, which stands on the corner of Habarzel Street and Nehoshet Street in northern Tel Aviv's Ramat Hahayal neighborhood. Some 23 people were still hospitalized with light to moderate injuries.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived late Monday at the scene, canceling his plans to attend an Israeli national soccer game against Italy, and praised first responders and rescue workers.

Rescue efforts continued throughout the night and are expected to go on for at least another day. According to the Palestinian Labor Minister Mamoun Abu Shahla, Palestinians from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shoafat are among the fatalities. Several of the injured were also said to be Palestinian. Abu Shahla said that his ministry was following the incident closely, and that it holds the Israeli government responsible for the recent spate of construction site deaths.

The Israel Defense Forces dispatched search and rescue teams to the site to reinforce the more than 60 firefighters on hand. Rescuers were using cellphone trackers in attempt to pinpoint the location of those trapped under the wreckage. 

Police have questioned several senior officials of the companies that operate the site, namely the construction firm Danya Cebus. About two months ago, a concrete beam collapsed at the same site, injuring two workers. Police believe that the state failed to send a supervisor to examine the site after the beam collapse, and work at the site continued. The Economy Ministry, which oversees construction sites, said it has received no report of the previous collapse.

Aerial view of the building collapse at Tel Aviv construction site that injured at least 18 people with at least half a dozen other victims feared trapped in rubble on September 5, 2016.Credit: Courtesy of Israel Police

In a statement, Danya Cebus offered condolences, saying that the company shares the pain of the casualties and their families. "At this difficult time, we focus on aiding the rescue services and we'll do everything we can to help the investigative authorities in their work," said the statement.

Construction for the 17,000 square meter, four-level lot began in November 2014, and the project was slated for completion by the beginning of 2017. Africa Israel won the tender to build the underground public parking garage next to Assuta Medical Center, but the project was carried out by the Danya Cebus company.

Labor Minister Haim Katz will hold a special emergency meeting on the collapse later today.

The Knesset passed a law a month ago allowing authorities to shut any construction site for two days after an accident claims a life or a serious injury. An inspector can fine a developer up to 75,000 shekels for failing to rectify safety issues, and construction workers are entitled to full compensation for days of interrupted work.

Lawmaker Eli Alalouf of Kulanu, chairman of the Knesset Labor Committee demanded that the government shut the site of Monday's site collapse immediately.

"I am shocked at the reports of the difficult incident at the Tel Aviv construction site. We have cautioned against such nightmares as that unfolding before our eyes," Alalouf said.

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