A 35-year-old woman was among two people rescued alive from debris this morning, 39 hours after a multi-storey building under construction in Chennai collapsed during heavy rain on Saturday, killing at least 18 people. About 40 people are still feared trapped.
A senior cop said, “Clearing the debris is a huge challenge. This would take almost two to three days and we hope to save many lives.” Rescuers could hear feeble voices in the debris, said TS Sridhar, commissioner of the disaster management agency, the NDRF.
On Sunday evening, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa said there were 72 construction workers in the building when it collapsed. 22 people have been rescued so far and the bodies of 18 people have been recovered.
The woman rescued this morning, Neenamaal from Andhra Pradesh, has been taken to hospital. The construction workers in the building when it collapsed were mostly from Andhra Pradesh and northern states. Many were in the building to collect their wages.
Police have arrested five people including the promoters and engineers of the building and has charged them with alleged irregularities and compromising on quality and safety.
Ms Jayalalithaa, who visited the site yesterday, said, “It appears they have not adhered to approved plans. The building appears to have serious structural defects”. She announced a compensation of Rs. 5 lakh each in addition to the earlier compensation of Rs. 2 lakh for the victims. The Andhra Pradesh government too announced Rs. 5 lakh for each victim.
A National Disaster Response Force team has been leading rescue work using gas cutters, iron rods and shovels after cranes lifted concrete blocks to get to the survivors. TV and still footage showed crowds of rescuers in yellow helmets searching the ruins – huge slabs of concrete which had pancaked onto each other, twisted steel reinforcing rods and tangled scaffolding.
Moderate to heavy rains hampered rescue efforts late on Sunday, but these were continuing, said a police officer.
Ms Jayalalithaa’s visit to the site on Sunday shifted focus for a while from the rescue operations. Work was stopped for almost three hours. A heavy vehicle deployed for rescue was diverted to clean up the place. Asked if authorities could have avoided that, Ms Jayalalithaa said that the “question was “mischievous and politically motivated”.
Earlier on Saturday, 11 people died when a four-story structure, 50 years old, collapsed in New Delhi.
In April last year, 74 people were killed when an eight-story building being constructed illegally in the Mumbai suburb of Thane in western Maharashtra had collapsed.