BEIJING - An unfinished factory building collapsed amid a violent thunderstorm Tuesday in northern China, killing 17 people, state media and a government official said.

The two-story building housing an iron casting company crumbled Tuesday morning as torrential rain hit the city of Shijiazhuang, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

It said 20 people, most of them employees of the Tengfei Malleable Iron Casting Co. Ltd., were buried in the collapse, but only three people had been rescued and hospitalized.

The report quoted an unidentified local man as saying the building collapsed following a massive thunder burst as heavy rain fell across the city, which lies about 125 miles (200 kilometres) southwest of Beijing.

Stifling heat and high humidity have brought thunderstorms to large parts of northern China in recent days.

A man who answered the phone at the local government duty office said the building had not yet been completed and construction workers were among those killed.

The man, who refused to give his name because he was not authorized to speak to media, said the three people hospitalized were in stable condition with non-life threatening injuries. He said the accident was under investigation.

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