Mumbai building collapse death toll jumps to 45

Mumbai building collapse death toll jumps to 45

MUMBAI - The death toll from the collapse of a Mumbai apartment block jumped to 45 late Saturday, and was expected to climb again as rescuers worked through the night searching for more victims, officials said.

"We've got 45 bodies now," Alok Avasthy, a senior official of the National Disaster Management Authority told AFP from the site where emergency crews worked to find other people still missing under a mass of concrete slabs, the destruction left by Friday's five-storey cave-in.

Distraught relatives stood tearfully watching the rescue efforts being carried out under floodlights, hoping family members would be pulled alive from the twisted wreckage.

"We are working through the night. We were told there were 89 people in the building at the time of the collapse and so far we have accounted for 78 people," Avasthy said.

The residential block collapsed at dawn Friday - marking the latest building disaster to hit the city and surrounding area.

"We have got 33 people out alive and we won't give up until we can account for everyone," Avasthy said.

"We expect there will be some more bodies but we are hoping for some survivors - that hope is always there," he added.

A male survivor in his 40s was the latest to be pulled from under the twisted iron bars and chunks of fallen concrete on Saturday afternoon, Avasthy said.

"One of his legs was stuck under a slab and he was brought out after it (the slab) was removed," Avasthy said.

The senior rescue official said a number of those rescued were being treated in hospital.

Officials said 22 families had been housed in the block, owned by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai in the city's eastern suburbs.

The Press Trust of India reported a civic body has filed a complaint against a contractor who had allegedly made some alterations to the ground floor of the building before it collapsed.

Local authorities said they would bear the cost of treating the injured and that compensation would be paid to families of the dead.

The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai said some of its employees and their families were housed in the structure and had been asked to leave earlier this year.

A corporation spokesman did not explain why the families had been asked to leave or whether alternative accommodation had been arranged.

Five other residential blocks have collapsed in or close to Mumbai in recent months, including one in April that killed 74 people.

The incidents have highlighted poor quality construction and violations of the building code, caused by massive demand for housing and endemic corruption.

The high cost of property in Mumbai and surrounding areas pushes many low-paid families, especially newly arrived migrants from other parts of India, into often illegal and badly built homes.

More than half of the city's residents live in slums.

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