9 Still Missing in China Hotel Collapse, Official Says Rescue 'Very Difficult'

Eight people were killed and nine are still unaccounted for after part of a hotel collapsed in eastern China on Monday, local authorities have said.

The three-story building, which is part of Siji Kaiyuan Hotel in Suzhou, in the Jiangsu province, "collapsed in its entirety," an official coordinating rescue efforts told reporters, calling the task "very difficult."

A statement released by the municipal government of Suzhou said 23 people had been trapped in the ruins of the hotel. By 7 a.m. local time on Tuesday, 14 had been found and nine were still missing.

Among those recovered from the rubble, five were taken to a local hospital, one was sent home and eight were confirmed dead. Of the victims inside the building at the time, 18 have been identified, the notice said.

At a press conference on Tuesday, provincial medical task force leader Huang Yingzi said three of the five victims were hospitalized with serious injuries. All five were in "stable condition," said Huang, who is vice president of Zhongda Hospital, Southeast University.

Rescuers Search Rubble After Fatal Hotel Collapse
Rescuers Search Rubble After Fatal Hotel Collapse
Firefighters search through the ruins of Siji Kaiyuan Hotel in Suzhou, Jiangsu, China, following a building collapse on July 12, 2021.

Chen Zhi'ang, the provincial fire service official coordinating rescue efforts, told reporters that the task was complicated by the nature of the hotel collapse.

"Although the building itself is not tall, the collapse was not partial. It collapsed in its entirety, after which the structure was crushed into pieces," Chen said.

"This is a very difficult rescue," he added.

More than 600 rescue workers were taking part in the ongoing efforts, local authorities said.

The Wujiang District Emergency Management Bureau said late on Monday that the precise cause of the collapse at 3:33 p.m. was still unknown. A provincial task force was formed to investigate the incident.

According to Shanghai news outlet The Paper, the hotel was recently refurbished in 2018 and put under new management as of March 2020. Before that, it had changed hands at least two times.

One former guest told Hubei-based Jimu News that he had checked out an hour before the collapse. He received a call from the police at 4 p.m. inquiring after his safety, he told the online news outlet, adding the hotel was undergoing construction work during his three-night stay.

Rescuers Search Rubble After Fatal Hotel Collapse
Rescuers Search Rubble After Fatal Hotel Collapse
Firefighters search through the ruins of Siji Kaiyuan Hotel in Suzhou, Jiangsu, China, following a building collapse on July 12, 2021.

The rescue efforts in Suzhou are likely to be closely watched at home and abroad after Chinese diplomats appeared to mock the U.S. response to the Surfside condominium collapse.

Monday's incident happened less than three weeks after the June 24 collapse in Florida, which claimed 94 lives, with 22 still missing in the rubble.

Chinese officials took to Twitter to criticize efforts in the U.S., especially after the decision to demolish the partially collapsed apartment building on July 4 ahead of hurricane season.

"'America is coming back!' But none of the people buried in the ruins has come back!!!" Li Yang, who heads China's consulate general in Brazil's Rio de Janeiro, wrote on July 3.

In a separate tweet three days later, after the Surfside condo was demolished, he added: "American-style rescue: very layman in saving people, but too expert in blasting!!!"

On July 7, Hua Chunying, director of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Information Department, wrote: "More than 100 people are still missing in the #condocollapse in #Florida. Heartbreaking! A natural disaster or man-made tragedy? Unthinkable in #China."