Nine killed as block of flats collapses in Georgia’s Black Sea resort of Batumi

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Nine people died after a block of flats partly collapsed in Georgia’s Black Sea resort of Batumi, the interior minister said on Saturday, with unsafe renovation work blamed for the accident.

Around five floors of the building collapsed on Friday, crushing several cars parked outside and leaving “up to 15 people” missing under the rubble, according to police.

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“I want to express my condolences to the families of the deceased. A total of nine people died,” Vakhtang Gomelauri said.

“Five minutes go we found a ninth person. It is believed that he was the last,” Gomelauri said, adding that the rescue operation had been halted over fears of the rest of the building collapsing.

Georgia on Monday will observe a national day of mourning for the victims of the accident.

Three people have been arrested, police said, identifying them as the owner of a ground-floor apartment and two construction workers he had hired.

Investigators found that the two men, acting on the owner’s orders, were working “in gross violation of safety rules, leading to the collapse of an entrance into the building.”

If convicted, the three risk between two and 10 years in prison.

Hundreds of responders were sent to the scene of the collapse on Friday, while Prime Minister Irakli Garibachvili and Gomelauri also travelled to Batumi.

Batumi -- a port town -- is the second largest city in Georgia and lies near the Turkish border in the south-west of the country.

Read more: A month after Florida Surfside building collapse, rescue mission nears end

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