64 killed in Delhi building collapse

2010-11-16 07:54

New Delhi – At least 64 people were killed when a multi-storey building in a crowded area of New Delhi collapsed, with the death toll set to rise today as rescuers made slow progress amid the rubble.

Investigators believe the five-storey building in a working class area of eastern Delhi, which caved in late yesterday, had been weakened by recent flooding brought on by some of the strongest monsoon rains in decades.

The site of the structure, now a crumpled heap of concrete resembling the aftermath of an earthquake, lies next to the Yamuna river which burst its banks in September and early October.

“There are many victims still trapped below the concrete rubble and iron rods. Our challenge is to evacuate them alive,” city police spokesperson Rajan Bhagat said.

“We can confirm that 64 people are dead,” he added, saying 80 were being treated in hospitals.

Throughout the night and early morning, rescuers and locals pulled out severely injured people and corpses, with victims including several children who were carried away on stretchers to nearby ambulances.

The congested and narrow streets of the Lalita Park area of Laxmi Nagar made it difficult to bring in heavy lifting equipment, meaning rescue services relied on sledgehammers and a few hydraulic drills.

Witnesses said they heard shouts for help from under the debris.

“The building fell like a pack of cards. I saw people high up hanging onto remaining bits of the walls. Some were trying to jump out but they couldn’t, others were trapped,” Gurwinder Singh, a local taxi driver, said.

Girija Devi, a mother of four who worked at a tailor’s workshop in the building, said: “I was pulled out last night by some of the neighbours but my sister is still stuck below the debris.”

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit suggested the building might have been an unauthorised construction, and officials said an inquiry had been launched into the disaster.

“I think it is the carelessness of the builder who did not build a strong enough building to withstand a flood that came about a month ago,” she told the NDTV news channel.

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