The number of dead has risen to 17 even as massive rescue operations continued at the building collapse site at Mugalivakkam near Porur in Chennai. The police said that they have arrested five persons in connection with the tragedy.
Several persons are still believed to be trapped under the debris and hundreds of personnel are engaged in clearing the rubble as part of the rescue effort.
Two alleged owners of the building were arrested this morning along with two engineers as police rounded up five persons in connection with the incident and booked them under various sections of IPC.
"The Chennai Police Commissioner has already visited the spot. Five persons have been secured and inquiry is on into the incident," director general of police K Ramanujam told reporters in Chennai after visiting the spot.
Two women, identified as Sujata and Krishnaveni, were this morning pulled out from under the debris, taking the number of those rescued to 30 so far, police said.
Over 100 personnel from Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services along with 120 others from National Disaster Reponse Force are taking part in rescue operations at the site of the tragedy, which is being described as the largest building accident in the recent past in Chennai.
"Rescue operations are on in full swing. Our priority is to locate survivors. We are using modern cameras to locate them and are watching closely for any voices from within the debris," said NDRF DIG SP Selvan.
Sniffer dogs, too, have been brought in to locate persons trapped in the rubble.
Officials are speaking to those who have been rescued to gather information about the number of people who were in the building when the mishap struck at around 5pm on Saturday.
"Twenty-two fire tenders from Chennai and neighbouring districts like Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, Vellore as also from Tiruchirappalli have been kept ready near the site along with over 50 ambulances. Construction equipment and JCB vehicles have been rushed to the spot and have been taking part in rescue efforts since last evening," said Kancheepuram District Collector, Baskaran.
Chief minister J Jayalalithaa has announced a solatium of Rs 2 lakh each for the families of the deceased while Rs 50,000 has been extended to those who have been injured in the building collapse.
Roads near the building collapse site have been cleared to allow smooth conduct of rescue operations while Jayalalithaa has directed the Kancheepuram district administration to ensure medical treatment for the injured and also arrange for their safe journey back home at the government's expense.
Many of those feared trapped under the debris are believed to hail from Andhra Pradesh.
Minister of State for Heavy Industries Pon Radhakrishnan, MDMK leader Vaiko and MMK chief MH Jawahirullah, who visited the site this morning, called for those responsible behind the incident to be brought to book. DMDK leader Vijayakant, meanwhile, issued a statement condemning the incident and sought action against those responsible.