Death toll in the factory building collapse in Focal Point area rose to 19 on Thursday as one more body was brought out in the evening while four other corpses trapped under the debris were sighted. The toll was likely to rise as a joint rescue team of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Army found no sign of life during an intensive search under the debris.
While one body was recovered on Thursday evening, four more corpses spotted by rescue team were yet to be brought out from the debris, said SK Verma, commandant of 7th Battalion of NDRF, who is leading the rescue operation. He said the death toll had risen to 19 now. Deputy commissioner Priyank Bharti also confirmed the death toll figures.
After rescuing a trapped worker late on Wednesday night, rescue team moved with caution. On Thursday morning, a call was received that someone was trapped near the cutter machines number five.
The rescue team created four vertical entrances up to the ground floor, apart from 10 holes for ensuring proper ventilation for trapped persons.
"Equipped with search lights, wire cameras, loudspeakers and victim location detectors, separate rescue teams of NDRF and Army went down to the ground floor through vertical entrances, but hours of search did not yield result. There was no response from anywhere during the search of the entire ground floor," Verma told Hindustan Times.
Asked about the phone call regarding the presence of someone still alive under the debris, the commandant said that the area mentioned on the phone was extensively searched with the help of factory workers, but nothing was found.
"It may be a false alarm, but we cannot take any such information lightly and had no option but try to search for any person still alive and that is what we did," Verma said. During the three hours of search, clearance of heavy debris was stalled, so as not to risk the life of any trapped person.
"During search, we found some bodies lying under the debris and will remove them," the NDRF commandant said.
Finally, at around 4pm, the rescue teams decided to accelerate the operation to remove debris. Heavy cranes, JCBs and excavators were pressed into service soon after.
Commissioner of police Gaurav Yadav and deputy commissioner Priyank Bharti were on the spot during the day to coordinate rescue operation.