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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Hope fading for collapse survivors

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Local residents watch rescue workers search amid debris after a building collapsed in New Delhi (AP)

Hope of finding more survivors of India’s fatal building collapse was fading as rescue workers continued to tear through the pile of broken bricks, twisted iron rods and concrete slabs.

At least 66 people were killed and 73 were injured after the crude brick building crashed down in a congested New Delhi neighbourhood.

The building, in the Lalita Park area near the Yamuna River, was one of the rare homes working-class families could afford amid the sky-rocketing property prices in the crowded city.

But the building was two floors higher than legally allowed, and its foundation appeared to have been weakened by water damage following monsoon rains.

The soil near the river is too weak to support such tall buildings, New Delhi Lt Gov Tejendra Khanna said.

Poor construction material and inadequate foundations are often blamed for building collapses in India. In New Delhi, where land is at a premium, unscrupulous builders often break building laws to add additional floors to existing structures.

While the collapse was still being investigated, New Delhi’s top elected official blamed poor construction and maintenance and vowed to punish those who had allowed the extra floors to be built. “The scale of the tragedy is unprecedented,” Sheila Dikshit said.

The building’s owner, Amrit Singh, was arrested on Tuesday evening after fleeing the area, the Press Trust of India reported. Officials evacuated another of Singh’s buildings next door, after finding its basement was also flooded.

When the building fell, residents said they heard a rumble like thunder. They sprinted to the site and tried to reach those inside by digging with their hands into the piles of concrete, bricks and mortar before police and rescue teams arrived.

“There were so many dead bodies, there was no movement at all,” said Dil Nawaz Ahmed, a 25-year-old journalist who lives nearby. He said he managed to help free five injured residents, but mainly pulled out bodies, which he carried to waiting ambulances. “There were many women and children.”

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