Five people were killed on Monday after a building collapsed in Algiers’ old medina, officials in the North African country said.
Rescue teams rushed to the scene of the dilapidated four-storey building in the UNESCO-listed Casbah district but the victims, all members of the same family, had already died.
According to residents, a man, his wife, his brother and the couple’s two children – an eight-year-old and an infant – had been squatting in the building after its formal occupants were evacuated several months ago due to concerns about the structure.
Witnesses told the local Algerie Patriotique news website that the building’s facade was painted over last year when President Abdelaziz Bouteflika inaugurated the adjacent Ottoman-era Ketchaoua mosque.
Abdelkader Zoukh, the governor of Algiers and a Bouteflika supporter, paid a visit to the site but was quickly chased away by angry residents.
Images posted on social media showed security personnel escorting the governor back to his vehicle, with people massing around and chanting anti-government slogans.
طرد والي #الجزائر عبد القادر زوخ من حي #القصبة أين ذهب ليعاين المكان بعد سقوط طابقين داخل عمارة
Le wali d’#Alger Abdelkader Zoukh évacué du quartier de la Casbah où il s’était rendu après l’effondrement de deux étages dans un immeuble pic.twitter.com/oAcuH7mFvb
— Khaled Drareni (@khaleddrareni) April 22, 2019
A few hours later, state television announced the sacking of the governor and the dismissal of five other governors from the country’s 48 provinces, without giving any explanation.
A woman at the scene said the building “was falling into ruins” and should have been “renovated or destroyed”.
Bouteflika stepped down on April 3 after 20 years in power, bowing to pressure from the army and weeks of demonstrations mainly by younger Algerians seeking change.
Demonstrators in the North African country want a new generation of leaders to replace a ruling elite seen by many ordinary Algerians as out of touch and unable to jump-start a faltering economy hampered by cronyism.