[WATCH] Miriam Pace found dead beneath rubble after Santa Venera house collapse

The lifeless body of Miriam Pace was found just after 10pm • Sniffer dog gave indication of woman's location • Adjacent construction site given go-ahead last January

The police hearse leaving the disaster site with Miriam Pace's body inside. She was found beneath the debris after almost eight hours.
The police hearse leaving the disaster site with Miriam Pace's body inside. She was found beneath the debris after almost eight hours.
Rescuers search for woman trapped in Santa Venera building collapse

Updated at 10:51pm with police statement confirming death

Miriam Pace has been found dead beneath the rubble of her house that collapsed on Monday, the police have confirmed.

Pace's lifeless body was located just after 10pm and extracted from the rubble half-an-hour later by rescuers.

Rescuers had to slowly remove debris from an area indicated by a sniffer dog as the possible location of the victim.

Rescuers search for woman trapped in Santa Venera building collapse
Rescuers search for woman trapped in Santa Venera building collapse

A spokesperson for the Civil Protection Department said the rescue operation proceeded at a slow pace because of the dangers poised by the unstable rubble.

Rescuers started removing rubble and concrete slabs from the top part and worked their way to an area of the disaster site indicated by a sniffer dog earlier on.

Rescuers had to work carefully given the instability of the rubble
Rescuers had to work carefully given the instability of the rubble
The house collapsed just before 2:30pm
The house collapsed just before 2:30pm
Rescuers are on site searching for a woman who is believed to be trapped beneath the rubble
Rescuers are on site searching for a woman who is believed to be trapped beneath the rubble
A blue car was in the showroom below the house
A blue car was in the showroom below the house
A Google Maps shot of the area, with the side that collapsed marked in red
A Google Maps shot of the area, with the side that collapsed marked in red

The police spokesperson, Brandon Pisani, confirmed that the woman's lifeless body was found on the left side of the building close to where the side wall collapsed.

Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit is conducting an inquiry and has appointed experts to assist her.

The building in Santa Venera collapsed shortly before 2:30pm trapping the woman beneath the rubble.

The woman is Miriam Pace, 54, a mother of two. A police spokesperson earlier said the woman's husband and other relatives were being helped by the force's victim support unit and medical personnel from Mater Dei Hospital.

The two-storey house in Joseph Abela Scolaro Street is situated next to a construction site. The ground floor of the house was a showroom.

Members of the Civil Protection Department also used a drone and were lifted over the debris by a crane.

Photos of the collapse show that the side of the building abutting onto the construction site gave way, pulling down the internal ceiling and roof.

Prime Minister Robert Abela was on site for a couple of hours as he followed the rescue operation in the afternoon and returned to the site in the evening. Opposition leader Adrian Delia was also on site.

READ ALSO: Architect who certified excavation works as safe is project business partner

The adjacent construction site

A permit for the construction site adjacent to the collapsed building was issued in January.

The works included the excavation and development of an extensive site over an area of 1,326sq.m.

The site consists of a series of dilapidated stores at ground level behind a large garden. The garden abuts onto Triq Joseph Abela Scolaro corner with Triq San Gejtanu.

The six-storey development consists of four shops and overlying apartments and included two basement garages for 59 cars.

The Building Regulation Office issued a clearance for the development on 31 January following the presentation of a method statement by the developer.

The development was proposed by Malcolm Mallia's MCZMC Developers Ltd and the architect responsible for the project is Roderick Camilleri. Mallia is a council member of the Malta Developers Association.

A story of destruction

This disaster is the fourth major building collapse in less than a year. Three incidents in succession last year had prompted the government to order a moratorium until new regulations on demolition and excavation works were introduced.

The first major incident occurred on 25 April 2019 when a three-storey block collapsed adjacent to a construction site in Telgħa ta' Gwardamanġa. No one was injured in the incident but a family just managed to exit the building. 

On 8 June, a four-storey building collapsed in Main Street, Mellieħa. An elderly woman was pulled out of the rubble and rushed to the hospital. No one else was hurt in the accident. 

On 13 June, the common wall shared between a house and a construction site was torn down on St Luke’s Road in Gwardamanġa, leaving a family homeless. No one was injured.

Reporting by Kurt Sansone, Laura Calleja and James Debono

Photos and video by James Bianchi

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