Mumbai, (IANS) In the worst building crash this monsoon, at least 22 persons were killed and another 34 injured when a 117-year-old, six-storey building collapsed near the J.J. Hospital here on Thursday morning, an official said.
Another dozen plus people were still feared trapped under the debris as hectic efforts continued to save them till late this evening, the official said, adding the death toll may increase.
So far, 34 injured persons were rescued from the heap of rubble of the collapsed residential structure. The cause of the crash is being probed.
The Huseini Building on Maulana Shaukat Ali Road in the congested Bhendi Bazar in south Mumbai had been red-flagged as "dangerous" six years ago. It crashed suddenly with a roar at 8.25 a.m, catching all its occupants unaware.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his grief.
"Collapse of a building in Mumbai is saddening. My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and prayers with the injured," Modi tweeted.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited the crash site and ordered a probe into the disaster.
Rehabilitation Minister Chandrakant Patil announced a compensation of Rs 500,000 to the kin of the deceased and free treatment to the injured.
Opposition leader Dhananjay Munde blamed MHADA for not ensuring the redevelopment of the building though it was entrusted to a private group, Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT).
"Redevelopment projects languish or take 25 years to complete, the people are not ready to vacate and live elsewhere for so long. Instead of focusing on dream projects, the authorities should redevelop dilapidated buildings within a specified time-frame and concentrate on saving human lives," Munde said.
Among the injured were five firemen and an NDRF jawan.
A woman said the building also housed a nursery-cum-playgroup with around two dozen children. It was scheduled to open at 10 a.m., two hours after the building collapsed.
A BMC bulletin detailed the two-wing structure comprising an uninhabited godown with a sweetmeat shop on the ground floor and 10 residential tenements on the remaining upper floors, which have completely collapsed.
"The dangerous building was served evacuation notice in 2011 and the occupants ordered to vacate to make way for the redevelopment project, but they failed to heed the warnings," said a BMC official.
The NDRF, state disaster management, fire brigade personnel, dog squads and electronic gadgetry were deployed to trace those buried under the rubble.
As the building is situated in a heavily congested locality of south Mumbai, rescue teams and their large vehicles faced a tough time approaching it.
In the meantime, local residents, mainly Dawoodi Bohra community members, initiated their own rescue efforts, moving the rubble with their hands to help the victims.
This is the first major building collapse after Tuesday's deluge in Mumbai and the second in five days after the Chandivali Crystal Business Park crash of August 26 claimed six lives.
Earlier, on July 25, 17 persons were killed when the Sai Darshan building crashed in Ghatkopar.
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