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Search for survivors ends at collapsed South African building site

By Zandi Shabalala

TONGAAT, South Africa (Reuters) - Rescue workers called off the search for survivors at a collapsed South African building site on Wednesday, believing there are no more trapped construction workers beneath the half-built shopping mall.

One person was killed and dozens injured in Tuesday's collapse of the three-storey building in Tongaat, 30 km (20 miles) north of Durban.

"The entire operation has been stopped and handed over to the Department of Labour," police spokeswoman Mandy Govender told reporters at the site.

Initial reports suggested as many as 50 workers might have been trapped under the rubble but rescue officials, working through the night with sniffer dogs, recovered only one body and discovered no survivors.

The cause of the collapse remains unclear. District mayor James Nxumalo said local authorities had obtained a series of court injunctions, the latest on November 14, to halt construction.

The owner of the site has been identified as a South African businessman who is well-known in Durban, the second-largest city in South Africa and home to a large ethnic Indian population.

If safety regulations are found to have been flouted, the accident could damage the ruling African National Congress (ANC) as it moves toward an election next year because of widespread perceptions of incompetence and corruption in local government.

Durban and the surrounding province of KwaZulu-Natal are also the home of President Jacob Zuma and the region has enjoyed a construction boom in the last few years, based in part on government investment.

Of the 29 injured, two are in a critical condition in hospital, health officials said.

The ANC is expected to win an election in April or May next year but its share of the vote is likely to drop as young post-apartheid South Africans with no knowledge of white-minority rule come of age.

(Reporting by Zandi Shabalala and David Dolan; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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