Mumbai building collapse toll rises to 33 as rescuers desperately search for survivors

Rescuers in India's financial capital sifted through rubble on Friday (Sept 1) in a desperate search for survivors of the collapse of a 117-year-old condemned building, as the toll from the disaster rose to 33.
Rescuers in India's financial capital sifted through rubble on Friday (Sept 1) in a desperate search for survivors of the collapse of a 117-year-old condemned building, as the toll from the disaster rose to 33.PHOTO: EPA

MUMBAI (Reuters, AFP) - Rescuers in India's financial capital sifted through rubble on Friday (Sept 1) in a desperate search for survivors of the collapse of a 117-year-old condemned building, as the toll from the disaster rose to 33.

Officials said 22 men, eight women and three children died when the residential building gave way on Thursday morning in the densely populated area of Bhendi Bazaar following heavy rains.

“Overnight we pulled out 15 bodies, taking the total death count to 33,” Mr Tanaji Kamble, a disaster management spokesman for Mumbai’s civic authority, said.

The dead included a 12-year-old boy and two girls aged 11 and 14, he added.

Twelve other people were being treated for injuries at a local hospital, Kamble said.

There was no reliable estimate of those still missing in the second such collapse in a little over a month, which came as Mumbai recovered from two days of floods brought by heavy monsoon rains.

A total of 46 people have been pulled from the rubble since the collapse early on Thursday morning, 33 of whom have been declared dead, the chief fire official said.

"Rescue operations are continuing," said Fire Chief P.S. Rahangdale, adding that 14 fire and rescue officials had been injured in the effort. "Fire engines, rescue vans and ambulances are still at the site."

Police have yet to determine what caused the crumbling of the building in a densely-populated area of the city, many of whose residents had stayed on even after authorities declared it unsafe in 2011.

People had been reluctant to leave because they had not received details of alternative housing, some residents of the area said.

Building collapses are common in Mumbai, especially during the monsoon season from late June to September, when heavy rains lash the western Indian city, weakening poorly built structures.

Millions are forced to live in cramped, ramshackle properties because of spiralling real estate prices and a lack of housing for the poor.