HINDUSTAN TIMES, FIRST POST (India), BBC (UK)
MUMBAI - As many as 40 people were killed, including 11 children, in the collapse of a building illegally under construction near Mumbai, police said Friday.
Dozens of people were injured in the disaster late Thursday night, The Hindustan Times reported, as authorities continued searching for others who might be trapped beneath the seven-story building in Thane in the state of Maharashtra. Two toddlers were among more than 50 pulled from the rubble alive.
Police have already determined that the structure was an illegal construction and building work was still going on even though four floors were already occupied. It collapsed “like a house of cards,” in the words of one witness, according the news website First Post.
The resulting eight-meter-high mangled heap of steel and concrete complicated rescue efforts, which continue into Friday afternoon, with diggers and steel cutters working to reach victims.
The causes are yet unclear, but police inspector Digamber Jangale said it appeared to be due to the use of substandard building material. Local police commissioner K.P. Raghuvanshi said he had opened a case of death by negligence. “There are two builders and we are looking for them,” he told reporters.
Most of the victims were migrant laborers who had come to Mumbai to find work on building sites, often bringing their family and living on-site. Others had already moved into homes in the building, The Hindustan Times reports.
Building collapses are not uncommon in India, with poor construction practices and a lack of surveillance from authorities often to blame. Rajini Vaidyanathan, the BBC correspondent in Mumbai, says a growing population and lack of space have encouraged an increase in the number of high rises, but many builders fail to take sufficient safety precautions, or to get proper permission to build.
In December, at least 13 people died when part of a half-constructed building collapsed in the Wagholi area of Maharashtra. In the same region, at least six people were killed in September in Pune city, for similar reasons.