At least 11 people died and more than a dozen were feared trapped when a building collapsed in India’s financial capital of Mumbai on Thursday, after days of heavy rain swamped the city.
Rescuers using diggers could be seen sifting through the remains of the four-storey residential building which gave way around 08.40 a.m (03.10 GMT) in the densely populated area of Bhendi Bazaar.
It was the latest deadly housing collapse to strike the teeming metropolis – shining a spotlight on poor construction standards in the Asian country – and came after heavy rains and inundations in the city killed more than 10 people.
“There was a massive bang. We couldn’t see anything due to the dust and smoke.
”Once the dust settled, we realised it was a building collapse,” area resident Amina Sheikh told the Reuters news agency.
A spokesman for the Mumbai civic authority’s disaster control team said seven bodies had been pulled from the rubble.
Thirteen injured have been rescued from the rubble. Two firemen also have been injured during the rescue operations, AFP news agency reported.
An official in the control room of India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) said at least 40 people were believed to be stuck inside.
“A 43-member team is conducting rescue operations,” the NDRF official said.
Eight or nine families were believed to have been living in the building, the official said.
Later reports suggested more rescuers had joined the search operation.
Indian media said the building was named Ariswala and housed a sweet shop warehouse on the ground floor.
Smoke rose from the ruins.
A housing trust that was looking to redevelop the area said the building had been declared unsafe in 2011 and the housing board had offered alternative accommodation to tenants, but only seven families had moved out by early 2014.
One resident in the area said people had not been given proper details of what type of new housing they would be provided, making them reluctant to leave.
It was not immediately clear what housing regulators had done to encourage residents to evacuate.
The building was also among 791 buildings that the city’s municipal corporation has listed as dangerous this year.
“The building is said to be 110 years old,” said Al Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan, reporting from Mumbai. “It was already quite dilapidated.
“Mumbai is home to a lot of old buildings. Many were wary that there would be some kind of an issue like this, given the rains.”
The building is located in Mumbai’s Dongri neighbourhood, an area full of narrow streets with closely packed old buildings.
Building collapses are common in India, especially during the monsoon season from late June to September, when heavy rains lash the teeming metropolis.
Severe downpours began on Tuesday and caused flooding across Mumbai and the neighbouring region of Thane.
Mumbai has been hit by several deadly building collapses in recent years, often caused by shoddy construction, poor quality materials or ageing buildings.
The city is particularly vulnerable to deadly collapse with millions forced to live in cramped, ramshackle properties because of rising real estate prices and a lack of housing for the poor.
In July, 17 people, including a three-month-old baby, died when a four-storey building gave way in the northern suburb of Ghatkopar.
In 2013, 60 people were killed when a residential block came crashing down in one of Mumbai’s worst housing disasters.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies