George building collapse: Trapped South African man texting family

Dion Safels
Dion Safels' son Delvin is among those still trapped under the collapsed building [BBC]

Among those still trapped under rubble after a five-storey building collapsed in South Africa is Delvin Safels, who was on one of the lower floors when the structure collapsed, his father Dion told the BBC.

Rescuers have traced Delvin's location but are struggling to reach him.

The 29-year-old has been sending voice notes to his parents and girlfriend, telling them how much he loves them.

He is in pain, with an arm and a leg pinned down, and it is cold and dark.

"I believe my son will come out alive," his father Dion said.

He has been camping nearby since Monday, hoping that his son would emerge. He vacillates between despair and hope.

"He is a strong boy, I think he will be rescued tonight or soon."

More than a day after the apartment building collapsed, rescuers are still searching for 41 people still unaccounted for in the southern coastal city of George.

At least 34 people have so far been removed from the rubble, seven of whom have been confirmed dead.

Survivors and loved ones of other people still trapped also remain at the scene.

One man who spoke to the BBC on condition of anonymity recounted his escape. He was on the top floor when the building collapsed but only suffered a small cut to his hand. His friend is missing.

"I saw one guy was working and then 'boom' and I saw the whole building collapsed... I'm also traumatised. It is very sad," local councillor Theresa Jeyi said.

Rescue workers on top of the collapsed building
[Getty Images]

The cause of the collapse, which happened while the building was under construction, is being investigated.

The rescue effort includes 200 people with sniffer dogs, heavy lifting equipment and a search removing concrete blocks and debris by hand.

It is a long and slow process and the entire rescue operation is expected to take between four and five days.

"They will then begin a process of lifting the different floors off each other," said Colin Deiner, chief director for disaster management.

"There is a possibility people could still be alive," he added.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said his thoughts were with the families of people who died in the incident and called for the investigation to "bring closure to the community and prevent a repeat of this disaster".

The city's mayor, Ald Van Wyk, sent his condolences to the families "and all those affected who continue to wait for word of their loved ones".