Thirteen people were killed and up to 25 are feared trapped after a three-storey residential building collapsed before dawn yesterday near Mumbai, officials said.
The accident in the industrial town of Bhiwandi, 40km northeast of Mumbai, happened around 3.40am, according to local authorities.
Emergency workers from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) pulled 19 people from the rubble – including two boys aged four and seven – to loud cheers from residents.
“Total number of deaths is 13. Rescue operations are ongoing”, NDRF commandant Ithape Pandit said. NDRF director general Satya Narayan Pradhan tweeted that specialist teams and sniffer dogs were trying to rescue another “20-25 feared trapped”.
“Half of the building collapsed and nearly 25 to 26 families are feared trapped,” Pankaj Ashiya, the municipal commissioner of Bhiwandi, told reporters.
It was not clear why the building, which had 54 apartments on three floors, collapsed. “We heard a noise and I noticed that there were cracks on the floor,” resident Sharif Ansari, 35, said.
“I woke up my neighbours and my wife and we rushed everyone down.” Ansari said he went back up to alert more people and was on the first floor with some other residents when the building came down.
“We jumped from there and managed to escape but there are at least another 60 people trapped,” he said. An official at the Thane municipality said that more than 40 emergency workers were helping search for survivors.
Images broadcast on the NDRF’s official Twitter feed showed emergency workers combing through concrete and brick rubble with electrical wires hanging over their heads.
Shiv Sena leader and Urban Development Minister Eknath Shinde rushed in to supervise the rescue operation and announced an immediate compensation of Rs500,000 to the families of each the deceased and free treatment to the injured.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, and others monitored the situation regularly from Mumbai, as the state capital, Thane, Palghar, and Raigad continued to be battered by rain.
President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed condolences.
“The loss of lives in the building collapse at Bhiwandi in Maharashtra is quite distressing. In this hour of grief, my thoughts and prayers are with the accident victims. I wish speedy recovery to the injured. Local authorities are co-ordinating rescue and relief efforts,” Kovind said.
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