Mumbai building collapse death toll hits 28: official

MUMBAI - The death toll from the collapse of a five-storey apartment block in India's financial hub Mumbai rose to at least 28, a senior official at the rescue site told AFP on Saturday.

Alok Avasthy of the National Disaster Management Authority said in a text message there were "28 dead", adding that up to 30 more people were feared pinned beneath the rubble.

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

"We have hospitalised 34 people" and "more (bodies) are buried in the rubble" Mumbai deputy police commissioner Tanaji Ghadge told AFP by telephone from the site.

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

By Friday night, rescue workers had managed to pull out nearly 50 survivors from the debris of the flattened block.

Several diggers had been pressed into action to lift some of the larger slabs of concrete, allowing teams of rescuers wielding heavy equipment to take out bodies and search for those still alive.

The Press Trust of India reported that 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 that they would bear the cost of treating the injured and that compensation would be paid to the families of the deceased.

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

"The building was around 30 years old. We had issued a notice to them in April, to vacate the building, but they did not act," spokesman Vijay Khabale-Patil said.

He 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.

Three buildings caved in during the month of June alone, killing 25 people between them. The monsoon season's heavy rains are thought to have exacerbated structural problems.

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, while across India the urban housing shortage was estimated at nearly 19 million households in 2012.

Falling buildings are a nationwide problem. British daily The Guardian gathered statistics showing that 2,651 people were killed across India in 2012 from the collapse of 2,737 structures, including houses and bridges.