MUMBAI: A five-story residential block collapsed in Mumbai at daybreak on Friday leaving up to 70 people feared trapped inside, in the latest building disaster to hit India’s financial capital.
Crowds formed around the rubble of the completely flattened block, owned by the city’s civic administrative body, the Municipal Corp. of Greater Mumbai, in the east of the city.
“My son is inside. I’m waiting for them to get him out,” distraught 62-year-old retiree Mithi Solakani said as rescue workers scrambled over tonnes of debris.
Several diggers were pressed into action to lift some of the larger slabs of concrete, allowing teams of rescuers to begin the task of taking out bodies and searching for survivors.
One was removed covered in dark red cloth and carried to a waiting ambulance on a stretcher. Crowds of women waiting nearby could be heard sobbing.
Local politician Bhai Jagtap said that 22 families lived in the destroyed block and seven to eight people had been brought out alive.
“The rest of the people are down below, calling people from inside. Rescuers are doing their level best to save lives,” he said.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) also said that 22 families were housed there.
“We think up to 70 people are trapped,” Alok Avasthy from the NDMA told Agence France-Presse at the scene.
The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai said that the building was for employees of the local administration and their families who had been asked to leave earlier this year.
“The building was around 30 years old. We had issued a notice to them in April, to vacate the building, but they did not act,” said Vijay Khabale-Patil, the corporation’s spokesman.
He did not explain why the families had been asked to leave.
Five other apartment blocks have collapsed in or close to Mumbai in recent months, including one in April that killed 74 people.
They have highlighted poor quality construction and violations of the building code, caused by massive demand for housing and endemic corruption.