The IDF Home Front Command is continuing its search for five missing construction workers trapped beneath a collapsed parking garage in the Ramat Hachayal neighborhood in northeast Tel Aviv. As of Monday night at least two were confirmed dead in the building collapse along with at least 24 injured.
The soldiers began a 24-hour search and rescue operation on Monday afternoon. Two victims were successfully extracted by evening, leaving five more trapped, their status unknown. As darkness approached, hundreds of rescue workers planned to continue digging into the night in an effort to save the missing.
Speaking at the scene, Col. Itzik Guy said searchers had located some of the missing, but were unable to make physical contact. “We still cannot access some of them who are physically trapped. This is a complex event which will take time,” he said.
Contact was made with two trapped victims earlier on Monday, but by evening the connection was lost. No contact has been established with three of those listed as missing.
Col. Golan Vach of the Home Front Command said that soldiers were sifting the rubble to rescue survivors. “I am optimistic for the coming days that they can be rescued,” he said, and estimated that it could take up to two days to extract all those still trapped inside.
The 24 injured were among both Israeli and Palestinian construction workers at the site. One of them, a 25-yearold man, is in serious condition.
The rest sustained medium to light injuries.
A spokesman for Magen David Adom said they had recovered the body of a 35-year-old man, along with body parts from other victims.
According to the MDA, the conditions of those missing are unknown, however, voices were heard by search and rescue teams Monday afternoon, which indicated that some of the missing were still alive.
Police received reports of a building collapse on the corner of Habarzel and Hanahoshet Streets at 11:24 a.m., and responded within minutes.
The four-level underground parking garage was under construction and collapsed for reasons that remain unclear. Three floors collapsed entirely, making it difficult to reach people trapped under layers of concrete and rubble. Rescue and evacuation operations are expected to continue for several days, according to police and the Home Front Command.
Yarkon district police spokesman Eran Yehuda said a number of the building’s floors collapsed on top of themselves and that the danger of further collapse still remained.
The cause of the collapse is under police investigation, which is under a gag order.
However, Channel 2 reported that the company operating the construction site, Danya Cebus, a subsidiary of Africa Israel Investments, had been subject to unannounced inspections by the Ministry of Labor and Welfare.
“This is a failure in planning or implementation work carried out contrary to design,” said Ran Cohen, district manager of work safety in the Ministry of Economy, according to the Channel 2 report.
Joint List MK Ayman Odeh said during a televised visit to victims at Ichilov Hospital that the incident demands a wider, state-wide investigation into construction workers’ conditions, many of whom are Palestinian or Arab-Israeli. “We need to establish a commission of inquiry to the phenomenon of construction accidents in recent years,” he said. “Since the beginning of the year, 32 construction workers were killed.”
A statement issued by Danya Cebus said, “During construction work on the Habarzel parking garage in Ramat Hachayal, by Danya Cebus, parts of the garage collapsed.
The company is currently investigating the reasons for the collapse and also the consequences and implications.
At the moment, Danya Cebus and Africa Israel Investments are devoting all of their efforts to providing a fast response at the scene and are focusing on treating the casualties in this severe incident.”
Police, firefighters, and IDF search and rescue units rushed to scene in response to the collapse, while police blocked traffic to allow the passage of emergency services.
Those injured in the building collapse were taken to Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center, Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, Wolfson Medical Center in Holon and the Rabin Medical Center-Beilinson Campus in Petah Tikva.
They were evacuated and treated by medics and paramedics from Magen David Adom, United Hatzalah and medical teams from the private Assuta Medical Center, which is adjacent to the parking garage.
Five of the injured taken to hospitals on Monday were later discharged home the same day.
Home Front Command deployed over 300 personnel and Oketz K-9 units to the disaster site. Three search and rescue crews from the Ram, Shaham, and Tavor battalions were deployed, each comprised of 15 rescue officials. A 60-member national reserves search and rescue company, and three platoons from the Home Front Command’s Central District – made up of 33 rescue workers and four doctors – also arrived at the scene.Yaakov Lappin and Judy Siegel contributed to this report.