The drama happened yesterday afternoon in the Nieuw Zuid area south of the city centre, where a new school was being built. Part of the new construction, including the scaffolding, collapsed. It was immediately clear that there were many victims.
Several workers could be saved from the rubble. Eight of them sustained heavy injuries, four of them were fighting for their lives but are said to be stable now. However, five others had gone missing - there were reports of six missing persons at first, but this was later adjusted to five.
Around 4 o'clock last night, a first body could be recovered. A second body was found two hours later, and the last three missing persons were found dead under the rubble during the course of the day. The operation was a difficult one, since what remained of the building was unstable. At first, only dogs were used to search the debris as a massive human intervention was deemed too delicate.
Fire services had told reporters this morning that there was little hope left for the two last missing persons. "Around 1 o'clock last night, we stopped all the machines to create a silence, hoping we might catch signals from victims trapped under the rubble. However, this proved fruitless", Marie De Clercq of the Antwerp fire services explained.
Up to three of the dead victims are thought to have the Portuguese nationality, and there is also a Romanian victim. It is still unclear how the accident could happen. King Filip and PM Alexander De Croo visited the site this afternoon to support the rescue workers and the families of the victims.