MUMBAI • At least 90 people were feared trapped in the debris of a five-storey building which collapsed south of India’s financial capital of Mumbai yesterday, according to police in Maharashtra state.
The building, which is said to comprise 47 flats, caved in yesterday evening.
The authorities said 28 people were pulled out by rescue teams amid heavy monsoon rain, and local residents joined the operation at the disaster site in Mahad, an industrial town about 200km south of Mumbai.
“Fifteen injured people have been rescued and taken to hospital,” Mahad police said.
The number of dead is yet to be ascertained.
Maharashtra Minister of State for Industries and Tourism Aditi Tatkare said the local administration is trying to get exact information about how many were inside when the building collapsed.
She has been elected to the state assembly from Shrivardhan constituency in Raigad district.
ANI, an Indian news agency, in an earlier tweet said three floors of the five-storey building collapsed in Mahad, in Maharashtra state’s Raigad district.
The building collapsed at around 6.50pm, a National Disaster Response Force ( NDRF) official said.
Television footage showed local residents and police officers combing through tin sheets and other wreckage in a desperate search for survivors, some using bare hands.
The TV footage also showed ambulances leaving the area as people surrounding it made frantic phone calls.
Police officials from at least three divisions of Raigad rushed to the site to carry out rescue operations along with NDRF teams.
Three NDRF rescue teams, armed with specialised equipment and sniffer dogs, were deployed to the scene of the accident, a statement from the NDRF said.
Former Mahad legislator Manik Motiram Jagtap told the local TV9 Marathi channel that the structure was 10 years old and built on “weak” foundation.
“It fell like a house of cards,” he said. “It is a scary situation.”
TV9 Marathi reported that between 200 and 250 people could be in the building.
The office of Mr Uddhav Thackeray, chief minister of Maharashtra state, said on Twitter that he had been in touch with local representatives in the area.
“He has assured them that all possible support will be extended for speedy rescue and relief works,” the tweet said.
The cause of the accident was not clear, but building collapses are common during India’s June to September monsoon, with rickety structures buckling under the weight of non-stop rain.
The India Meteorological Department last Friday forecast “heavy to very heavy rainfall” in Mumbai and neighbouring Thane, Raigad and Palghar districts over the next 24 hours with gusty winds.
An orange alert indicating heavy to very heavy rainfall was issued for last Saturday for Mumbai, Palghar, Thane, Raigad and Ratnagiri districts.
Last month, heavy rain in Mumbai caused the collapse of a multi-storey building, killing nine people and injuring several others.
The monsoon plays a vital role in boosting agricultural harvests across South Asia. But it also causes widespread death and destruction, unleashing floods, triggering building collapses and inundating low-lying villages.
The death toll from monsoon-related disasters this year has topped 1,200, including more than 800 lives lost in India alone.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE