India building collapse: Rescuers form human chain to search for Mumbai survivors

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A human chain of rescuers is searching for survivors a day after a building collapsed in the Indian city of Mumbai, killing 13 people and trapping dozens.

Officials say rescue efforts have been hampered by a warren of old streets which prevent access by heavy vehicles.

Rescuers are hopeful of finding more people alive. A woman was saved on Wednesday but her two children died.

Such disasters are not uncommon in Mumbai, which has thousands of old, dilapidated buildings.

Rescuers are facing a huge challenge because Dongri – in the south of the city, where the building was located – is a web of cramped, narrow lanes, hemmed in by run-down buildings.

Municipal workers clear the debris from the site of collapsed building in Dongri area of Mumbai, India, 16 July 2019

Officials say fire crews and ambulances could not even reach the site because the lane was too narrow. So a chain of fire-fighters, municipal workers and local volunteers has been ferrying rescue materials to the building and carrying away the injured and the dead.

“Tandel street, where the building stood, is so narrow that only one person can walk through it comfortably at a time,” says BBC Marathi’s Mayuresh Konnur.

Rescuers worked through much of the night looking for people trapped by the debris. At least 10 other people were injured in the collapse and are in hospital.

Fire fighters hold Zinat Salmani's outstretched hand.

On Tuesday, fire-fighters were retrieving a body from the under the rubble when they discovered an outstretched hand. That’s how they found and saved 23-year-old Zinat Salmani and her daughter. She was trapped under an iron beam, wooden doors and a gas cylinder. They are now recovering in hospital.

Another woman, Alima Indrasi, 28, was pulled to safety on Wednesday. “She has sustained injuries but is undergoing treatment,” National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) spokesman Sachidanand Gawde told AFP. He said her two children had not survived.

Some 15 families were living in the Kesarbai building when it came down early on Tuesday, police said.

Peer Mohammed, who lives in the building next door, says he heard a huge sound about 11:40 local time (06:10 GMT).

“I ran outside and saw that people were stuck under the rubble. We rescued four people, but many others are still trapped, ” he told BBC Marathi’s Janhavee Moole.

Forty people are feared trapped inside the building in Dongri

Two of Mr Mohammed’s relatives – his brother and his brother’s daughter-in-law – died in the accident. Two other members of his family were injured.

Mr Mohammed, his family and his neighbours – many of whom live in Dongri’s crumbling buildings – are asking the same question. Who is responsible?

Fear and concern is evident on the faces of neighbours who also live in old, precarious buildings.

Neighbours watch as National Disaster Response Force and fire brigade personnel carry on rescue work after a building collapsed.

State housing minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil says there will be an inquiry into what caused the building to collapse and “strict action” will be taken against any officials who were found responsible for negligence.

The Kesarbai building is reportedly 100 years old.

While the cause in this particular instance still remains unclear, Mumbai administrators say the building’s owners added a section to the original structure illegally, without securing the necessary permits.

This, they say, is the part that collapsed, while the original building is largely still standing.

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