Two people have died and about 40 are feared trapped after a roof collapsed at the construction site of a South African shopping mall, paramedics say.

The BBC's Nick Ericsson says early reports suggest the back wall gave way

Rescue teams are working in the dark to find those beneath the rubble at the site in Tongaat, north of Durban.

Crisis Medical, an emergency service provider in Durban, told BBC Focus on Africa that about 30 people had been taken to hospitals in the area.

Officials said those trapped were construction workers.

"It was a mall building still under construction; most of those still trapped inside the building were construction workers," police spokeswoman Mandy Govender told the AFP news agency.

Sniffer dogs

"Rescue operations are becoming extremely difficult in the dark," Neil Powell, operations director for Crisis Medical, told the BBC World Service radio programme Focus on Africa.

"So far there are two deaths, 30 have already been transported [to hospitals] and there's still 40 trapped," he said.

Police on the scene have different figures, saying that one person has died, 29 are injured and at least 50 are still trapped.

Mr Powell said the workers were trapped in a large amount of rubble and scaffolding.

The deputy mayor of the eThekwini municipality was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying that authorities had obtained an injunction a month ago to halt construction at the site.

Chris Botha, from the private ambulance company Netcare 911, said it was too early to know the cause of the collapsed roof, which is about the size of rugby field.

"It is going to be a long operation. It will take time to get to everyone," he told the BBC.

The accident happened around 16:30 local time (14:30 GMT), he told the AFP news agency.

About 100 rescue workers are at the scene, where hydraulic equipment is being used to break through the concrete blocks.

Sniffer dogs are also searching for more casualties, Mr Botha said.

Tongaat is a small town about 40km (25 miles) north of Durban surrounded by sugar farms and has a large South African Asian population.

According to Netcare 911, the shopping mall construction site is in the city centre, near a hospital and a railway.

Nearby transport routes to Tongaat had been affected as the main road through the town has been shut to traffic and trains have been stopped, Mr Powell said.

Those trapped are believed to be construction workers


Workers are trapped amidst scaffolding and rubble

So far about 30 people have been taken to hospital