Death toll in Himachal building collapse rises to 14, search op in final leg
The bodies of all the 13 Indian Army soldiers trapped under the debris of the collapsed building in Himachal Pradesh’s Solan district were pulled out on Monday, officials said, taking the death toll to 14.
The four-storey building housing a small eatery and a guest house collapsed following heavy rains on Sunday afternoon when 30 Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) of Assam Rifles, all from the nearby Dagshai cantonment, were eating lunch there. Nearly 15 others, including the eatery’s staff, were also present inside the building.
The army said the bodies of Lalsun, Surjeet Sharma and Rajan Bahadur were the latest to be found after the building collapsed on Nahan-Kumarhati Road near Solan, some 55km away from Chandigarh, on Sunday afternoon.
Solan’s district commissar KC Chaman said most of the civilians were rescued on Sunday but the search and rescue operation will continue until the entire accident area has been scanned.
“We completely rule out the possibility of any other person in debris,” he said.
The other dead soldiers have been identified as Hem Khuman, M Naubin, Vishwer Singh, Kumar Chourahi, Raj Kishore, Balwinder Singh, Vinod, Ajit Kumar, Pardeep Chand and Yogesh. The wife of the building’s owner Archana Devi was also killed in the accident, officials said.
Twenty-seven people, including 17 soldiers and 10 civilians, have been rescued from the debris.
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) official Ajay Verma, who is involved in the rescue operations, said the bodies retrieved from the debris were badly crushed. “We are praying for some life in the debris,” Verma said.
As a team of the army and NDRF staff continued to search for survivors beneath the debris, inconsolable cries of the family members of those stuck inside could be heard as a body was pulled out at about 3am on Monday.
It rained in the first few hours of the rescue operation which began at 4.30pm on Sunday. Since then, there have been no rains allowing the rescuers to continue their operation. The area had been witnessing heavy rains for the last four days.
Chaman said the reason behind the building collapse will be clear only after a probe.
“This building was constructed in 2009 and a floor was added to it recently. An FIR (first information report) against the owner has already been lodged,” he said while speaking to the media at the rescue site.
Chief minister Jairam Thakur has already ordered a probe into the incident and is likely to visit the site later in the day.
‘Worst disaster in the area’
Locals said it was the worst disaster in the area where the building collapsed in a few seconds, giving no time to those inside it to run out.
“First, the fourth floor collapsed. After some time, the entire structure came down,” said Gaurav Prashar, an eyewitness.
The building owner’s family lived on the top floor, the eatery was on the third floor and the second floor had a pantry and ground floor was being used as a store.
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