The death toll in the Mumbai building collapse rose to 34 on Friday with 10 more bodies being pulled out from the debris since last night, police said.
The 117-year-old building in the congested Bhendi Bazaar area in south Mumbai came crashing down on Thursday morning, two days after torrential rain brought the maximum city to its knees.
Around 15 people injured in the collapse are undergoing treatment at the state-run JJ Hospital, a senior police official said.
The dead include 24 men, nine women and a 20-day-old child, police said.
The search operation by personnel of fire brigade, NDRF and the Mumbai civic body was on a war footing as they pulled out 10 bodies from under the rubble since Thursday night.
But the survivors and families of those still missing held on to hope, as neighbours and residents of the nearby societies helped search for people, served tea and biscuits and comforted the families.
Twenty-five-year-old Mohammed Rafiq recounts the horror, “I had come to collect my belongings last night before leaving for my native place in Uttar Pradesh this (Thursday) morning. I ran out as soon as I heard a loud noise,” Rafiq said.
Some people in his room were brushing teeth when they heard cries outside, “Run… the building is about to crumble.”
“I dont know how many people were there in the building. I ran out immediately. My mobile phone and bag remained inside, but I am relieved that I am alive,” he said.
Another man, living in the opposite building, said, “The incident happened at around 8.30 am. There was a big noise. When we heard it, we came out and saw that the building had crumbled like a pack of cards.”
Located in the congested Muslim-dominated Pakmodia Street, the dilapidated Husaini Building housed several families and godowns.
It also housed a play school but children had not arrived yet when the tragedy occurred.
According to fire brigade officials, some nine families lived in the five-storey building.
The officials said that efforts were underway to rescue more people who might be trapped in the debris.
The tragedy struck barely two days after torrential rain brought the city to its knees, crippling road, rail and air services, inundating homes and leaving at least 10 people dead. Many suspect the downpour caused further damage to the ramshackle structure, causing its crash.
Some residents claimed that about 40 people belonging to nine families lived in crammed rooms in the structure, which was declared “unsafe” by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA).
The Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT), which was to have undertaken redevelopment of the old structure, said the building housed a total of 13 tenants — 12 residential and one commercial.
“Of them, the trust had already shifted seven families in 2013-14”, it said in a statement.
“MHADA notices dated 28 March and 20 May, 2011, declaring the building dilapidated, were issued along with an offer of transit accommodation to the remaining tenants and occupants,” it said.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday visited the spot and announced a solatium of Rs five lakh each for the next of kin of the deceased.
He also said that the entire medical expenses of those injured will be borne by the state government.
This was the second major building collapse in the city in just over a month, after the crash of a residential complex in suburban Ghatkopar on 25 July, which left 17 people dead.