MAHAD (India) • Rescuers in India pulled a four-year-old boy from the rubble of a collapsed building to loud cheers yesterday, hours after the five-storey apartment block came down “like a house of cards” and killed at least 11 people.
The emergency services have found 60 people alive, but there are still several unaccounted for following the disaster on Monday evening in Mahad, an industrial town about 165km south of Mumbai.
As an ambulance crew rushed the child Mohammed Bangi from the disaster site, distraught relatives shouted out the names of missing loved ones, while some combed through warped tin sheets, mangled metal rods and broken concrete looking for signs of life. Three disaster-response teams and sniffer dogs worked through the night looking for survivors.
Government officials said at least 11 people had died, while the more seriously injured were admitted to hospital. As the search for survivors continued in the rain, rescue teams tried to remove or stabilise sections of the building in danger of a fresh collapse.
Officials said many residents of the 47 flats in the building were spared because they had already left town to escape the pandemic.
The cause of the accident was not immediately clear, but building collapses are common during India’s June-September monsoon, with old and rickety structures buckling after days of non-stop rain.
According to a police official, legal action had been initiated against the building’s contractor, Yunus Shaikh, and the architect.
Mahad legislator Bharat Gogawale said that some of the building’s occupants appeared to have been out shopping when the accident occurred at around 7pm. Others had left the town altogether, preferring to wait out the pandemic in their home villages.
“Many families were not residing in the building as they went to their native places due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown,” district official Nidhi Choudhari told the Press Trust of India.
Mr Mustafa Chafekar, a resident who had been on home quarantine after testing positive for the virus, told the Mumbai Mirror that he and his family of five initially thought they were experiencing an earthquake. “We ran down immediately… The whole (structure) collapsed right in front of us,” the 39-year-old said of their escape.
He said residents had previously complained to the builders about the condition of the block.
Local politician Manik Motiram Jagtap told TV9 Marathi that the structure was 10 years old and built on “weak” foundations. “It fell like a house of cards,” Mr Jagtap said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he was “saddened”.
“My thoughts are with the families of those who lost their dear ones. I pray the injured recover soon,” he said.
The death toll from monsoon-related disasters this year has topped 1,200, including more than 800 in India. The building collapse is a further blow to the state of Maharashtra, already hit hard by the coronavirus, with the region accounting for over a fifth of India’s more than three million infections.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Boy, 4, rescued from rubble of collapsed building in India
Rescue workers carrying four-year-old Mohammed Bangi after he was rescued from the rubble at the site of a collapsed five-storey building in Mahad in Raigad district in India yesterday.
At least five people were killed and around 14 unaccounted for following the disaster on Monday, in the Mahad industrial town about 165km south of Mumbai, in the western state of Maharashtra.
Distraught relatives shouted out the names of missing loved ones yesterday, and others combed through warped tin sheets, mangled metal rods and broken concrete looking for signs of life.
The cause of the disaster has not been determined. But building collapses are common especially during the monsoon season, as construction is often shoddy.