Rain triggers building collapse in Mumbai; four killed, many feared trapped

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MUMBAI: The death toll in Monday’s building collapse in Mahim has increased to four. Several people are still feared trapped inside the collapsed building.

A five-storey building in Mahim became Monsoon 2013’s first casualty when its rear portion collapsed on Monday evening. Fire brigade personnel were rescuing residents trapped under debris till after midnight and officials feared more casualties as rescue operations progressed.

The building, Altaf Mansion, is a decades-old private residential building on Cadell Road near the Makdum Shah Dargah in Mahim. It has some other establishments on the ground floor.

The northeastern portion of the building – residents said it accounted for more than half the building’s residential flats – collapsed around 8.30pm. The debris trapped many people and, though several were brought out till last reports, officials feared more were still under rubble. “We cannot rule out the possibility of casualties going up,” said a senior fire brigade official.

Of the six injured pulled out from the rubble, 76-year-old Zaibunnisa Lakha died at Bhabha hospital. The others were taken to hospitals.

Fire brigade officials, who rushed more than a dozen fire engines, two rescue vans, a couple of earth excavators, said rescue operations were hindered by the crowd and the heavy rain. Around 20 people were rescued from the portion that was still standing.

Noted lawyer Rizwan Merchant, who represents actor Sanjay Dutt and has contested elections, owns flats in the building.

Witnesses recalled a loud crash around 8.30 pm, which prompted many to rush out of their homes near Dargah Galli despite the rain. “The cloud of dust took some time to settle down and people staying in the neighbourhood started rescue operations before fire brigade personnel arrived and took over,” said Anwar Khan, a person staying in the neighbourhood and one of the first to reach the spot.

Another witness reiterated that more residents could still be trapped under the rubble that was almost two-floors high. “We are trying to get residents together and do a head count, but there is so much confusion.”

The building, some residents said, was old and needed repairs urgently while others complained of illegal alterations and renovation putting pressure on the structure. Some hinted that there could have been a dispute that held up the much-needed repairs. But residents claimed they did not get any notice from any government agency.

Witnesses said fire brigade officials, even as they worked to rescue people trapped under the debris, also tried to prevent the portion still standing from falling down. “They are trying to knock down some portions that seem in danger of collapsing,” said one of them.

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