A multi-storey building under construction has
collapsed near Mumbai, killing at least 45 people and injuring 70,
police said on Friday.
Emergency and police teams rescued around 50 people from the rubble of the seven-storey building, which collapsed in the Thane area on the northern outskirts of the coastal city late Thursday.
Sixteen children, 18 men and 11 women were killed. More people could be trapped under 20 feet of rubble and rescue operations continued some 24 hours after the tragedy, local police inspector VS Parab said. Many of the victims were migrant labourers.
Police said 70 people were hospitalized and some of them were discharged after receiving medical treatment.
"The death toll has risen to 45 as some people succumbed to their injuries and more bodies were found at the site," Parab said.
Government officials have said the multi-storey building was put up on forest land in six weeks without any of the required licences. Four floors were already occupied, police said. Three more floors had been completed and work was ongoing to add an eighth floor.
"The building came up in one and a half months, so naturally the construction will be poor," state Labour Minister Ganesh Naik told reporters. "This building had no occupation certificate. It doesn't have an architect or a structural consultant."
Around 100 members of the National Disaster Response Force continued the search overnight. Footage on television channels showed rescuers scrambling through the debris of floors piled on top of each other.
Five children were pulled from the tangle of concrete and metal as hundreds of onlookers cheered, the IANS news agency reported.
Police said the death toll was likely to rise. Fire services personnel estimated that between 100 and 150 people were inside the building when the incident occurred and around 20 people were still missing.
"Till now the debris of five of the seven floors has been cleared. We still have to search the remaining two floors," Parab said.
Police filed a complaint of culpable homicide against the builders, who have fled. As a precaution, an adjoining building developed by them has been evacuated.
People thronged a nearby hospital to see if their relatives were still alive. Many of the wounded, suffered from fractures and head and spinal injuries.
One injured resident, Imran Sayeed, feared his pregnant wife and 12 members of his extended family died in the tragedy.
Another woman said her husband, a labourer working on the eighth floor, lost both his legs in the accident. "We face an uncertain future as our family's only breadwinner is handicapped. Who will take care of our children now,?" she told NDTV.
Later on Friday evening, authorities ordered a probe into the incident and suspended a senior municipal official.
Mumbai's growing population and influx of migrants has led to a surge in demand for housing.
Local media reported that there were around 250 illegally constructed buildings in Thane, and blamed municipal authorities for failing to take action against the builders.
Building collapses are common in Indian cities, where structures are often built without approval and using poor construction techniques and materials. More than 60 people were killed when a multi-storey building collapsed in New Delhi in November 2010.
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