At least 9 killed after 11-storey building collapses in south India

NEW DELHI (AFP) - At least nine people were killed and dozens feared trapped after an 11-storey residential block crumbled in southern India, officials said, the latest deadly building collapse in the country.

The tower, which was still being constructed about 20km from Chennai in Tamil Nadu, collapsed late on Saturday after heavy rains, crushing mostly labourers who were working at the site.

Senior police officer Karuna Sagar told NDTV television that nine bodies had been pulled from the wreckage while 20 people had been rescued and were being treated at hospital.

Mr Sagar added that witnesses had described hearing a loud bang, with the building collapsing after around 50 workers went inside it to seek shelter from the rain.

Television footage showed rescue workers scouring through the debris on Sunday afternoon with shovels as they searched desperately for trapped survivors.

A disaster management official leading the search operation said it was "was a big challenge" and that clearing the debris could take a few days.

"There is no clarity on the number of people trapped," Mr S. P. Selvan, a senior officer from the National Disaster Response Force, told reporters in Chennai, according to Press Trust of India (PTI).

The latest building disaster comes as a dilapidated apartment block collapsed in New Delhi on Saturday, killing ten people including five children.

Building collapses are common in India, as lax regulations and the demand for cheap housing often spurs construction that uses substandard materials and adds unauthorised extra floors.

Mr Sagar told NDTV that police had detained people for questioning, including engineers involved with the construction of the residential complex.

"We will look into all aspects of planning permission and quality of construction, the structure aspect and the soil condition and see what's wrong," he said.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram announced compensation of 200,000 rupees (S$4,160) to the families of the dead and 50,000 rupees for those injured.