Rescuers don’t expect to find anyone else under collapsed Indian building

Rescuers work amidst the rubble of the five-storey building that collapsed on Monday evening, in Mahad. (AP pic)

MUMBAI: The death toll from a collapsed apartment block in India rose to 16 overnight as rescuers said Wednesday they didn’t expect to find anyone else trapped dead or alive in the rubble.

Local officials had initially feared up to 200 residents of 47 flats were buried when the block collapsed late Monday in Mahad, south of Mumbai.

But many were spared, having fled the town weeks earlier to wait out the coronavirus pandemic in their home villages.

“We are in the final stages and don’t expect anyone (else) trapped under the debris,” Shiv Kumar, a spokesman for India’s National Disaster Response Force, told AFP.

Emergency workers rescued nine people from the wreckage, with the loudest cheers reserved for a four-year-old boy found alive on Tuesday afternoon.

Shell-shocked residents said they had previously complained to the builder about the condition of the complex, with police launching an investigation against him and four other people in connection with the tragedy.

Local politician Manik Motiram Jagtap told TV9 Marathi that the building was 10 years old and built on “weak” foundations.

“It fell like a house of cards,” he said.

Building collapses are common during India’s June-September monsoon, with old and rickety structures buckling after days of non-stop rain.

In another incident highlighting the precarious state of India’s infrastructure, a three-storey residential building collapsed in central Madhya Pradesh state on Tuesday following heavy rains.

Emergency workers — using shovels and in some cases their bare hands to remove debris — rescued nine people, reports said.

The monsoon plays a vital role in boosting harvests across South Asia, but also causes widespread death and destruction, unleashing floods, triggering building collapses and inundating low-lying villages.

The death toll from monsoon-related disasters this year has topped 1,200, including more than 800 in India.