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HindustanTimes Tue,16 Sep 2014

Mumbai building collapse: death toll 60, search ends

AFP  Mumbai, September 29, 2013
First Published: 15:24 IST(29/9/2013) | Last Updated: 16:31 IST(29/9/2013)

The confirmed death toll from the collapse of a residential block in Mumbai rose to 60 on Sunday as the search ended with all the missing accounted for, officials said.

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The building located at Dockyard Road on the harbour line, home to 22 families and owned by the BMC, came crashing down at daybreak on Friday.
   
"The toll has now risen to 60 and we have now called off the search for more bodies in the debris," said Mumbai deputy police commissioner Tanaji Ghadge, who will lead a police enquiry into the disaster.
   
Ghadge said one person has been arrested over the collapse, the latest of a series to hit the city and surrounding areas.
   
The Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency identified the man as Ashok Mehta, who occupied a ground-floor office-cum-warehouse in the building.
   
It said he was accused of carrying out faulty and unauthorised renovations  thought to have caused the collapse.
   
The had been listed as needing "urgent repairs".
  
Employees of the BMC, which owned the building, and their families were housed in the structure but had been asked to leave earlier this year.
   
It was unclear why they had not done so.
   
A municipal spokesman did not elaborate on why the families had been asked to leave or whether alternative accommodation had been arranged.
   
Rescuers managed to save 33 people from the rubble, said Alok Avasthy, commandant of the National Disaster Response Force.
   
"We were able to save 33 lives including an entire family which was brought out from the middle of the rubble on Friday," he said.
   
Twenty-six women and five children were among the dead, Avasthy said, amending his earlier count.
   
He said the death toll may rise if victims in hospital succumb to their injuries.
   
"Our operations are now off and the rubble has also been removed," Avasthy said.
   
He had led 150 trained rescuers who worked non-stop for 48 hours with special cameras, listening devices and tracker dogs.
   
Distraught and tearful relatives watched over the two-day rescue, hoping against hope that family members would be pulled alive from the twisted wreckage.
   
Mechanical diggers were used to lift some of the larger concrete slabs, allowing Avasthy's team to recover bodies and search for those still alive.
   
"At one point we stopped using heavy  machinery so as not to injure trapped people," Avasthy said.
   
Underlining the grimness of the task, police officer Ghadge said a severed head and a torso were pulled out from separate areas of the building.
   
"Only a DNA test of the two severed  parts will establish if it was one victim," Ghadge said.
   
Local authorities said they would bear the cost of treating the injured and compensation would be paid to families of the dead.
   
The cave-in was the latest in a series of building collapses in and around Mumbai in recent months, including one in April that killed 74 people.
   
The incidents have highlighted shoddy construction and violations of the building code, amid huge demand for housing in India's commercial capital  and endemic corruption.
   
The high cost of housing in Mumbai and surrounding areas pushes many low-paid families, especially newly arrived migrants from other parts of India, into illegal and badly built homes.
   
The situation is so dire that more than half of the city's residents live in slums.
   
Falling buildings are a nationwide problem. British daily The Guardian gathered statistics showing that 2,651 people were killed across India in 2012 due to the collapse of 2,737 structures, including houses and bridges.


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