At least 70 people were feared trapped after a five-storey apartment building collapsed late Monday in western India, police said.

The structure comprised 47 flats, police in the town of Mahad -- 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Mumbai -- said in a statement.

The cause of the accident was not clear but building collapses are common during India's June-September monsoon, with old and rickety structures buckling under the weight of non-stop rain.

‘Fifteen injured people have been rescued and taken to hospital,’ Mahad police said.

Three rescue teams, armed with specialised equipment and sniffer dogs, had been deployed to the scene of the accident, a statement from India's National Disaster Response Force said.

Television footage showed local residents and police officers combing through tin sheets and other wreckage in a desperate search for survivors.

Former Mahad legislator Manik Motiram Jagtap told the local TV9 Marathi channel that the structure was 10 years old and built on ‘weak’ foundations.

‘It fell like a house of cards,’ he said.

‘It is a scary situation.’

The office of Uddhav Thackeray, chief minister of Maharashtra state, where Mahad is located, 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 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.

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