New Delhi: A five-floor building collapsed in east Delhi’s Lakshmi Nagar area on Monday, killing at least 32 people. The incident took place in the crowded area of Lalita Park at around 8.15 pm.
More than 60 people were also injured in the incident and rushed to nearby hospitals. Nearly 40 people are considered to be still trapped under the debris, according to TV news reports.
City Police Commissioner BK Gupta and medical officials confirmed that over 60 people were injured.
The injured persons and the bodies have been taken to Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital and Hedgewar Hospital.
Rescue operations were underway in full swing when the reports last came in but dark surroundings were hindering the task. Seven fire brigade vans and a crane are also at the incident site.
Police and MCD officials were engaged in the rescue operation and removal of debris with the help of local residents. Ambulances took the injured to Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital and other nearby hospitals.
Finance Minister AK Walia, who rushed to the spot, said the foundation of the old building could have weakened due to the heavy rains in the Monsoon season when water of the Yamuna river flooded the area.
Locals said some water was still there in the basement of the building. Some residents also claimed that construction of an extra floor was going on when the incident took place. Many of the injured were labourers.
An MCD spokesperson said the Deputy Commissioner and Chief Engineer of the Shahdara South zone, under which the area falls, have rushed to the spot with men and machines to assist in the rescue operations.
"All other assistance is being organised," he said adding, "rescue is priority".
A magisterial inquiry has been ordered into the incident, Delhi government officials said.
The building is owned by a cement businessman named Amrit Singh, police officials said adding, an adjoining building also faces the risk of collapse and people have been evacuated.
"The scale of the tragedy is unprecedented. I don`t think such a tragedy has taken place in Delhi in the recent past," Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said.
Dikshit said it seems to be a "case of negligence" as the accumulated water in the basement for more than two months since the Monsoon was not removed.
She said it will have to be inquired if it was an unauthorised construction and that appropriate action will be taken if any wrongdoing is found.
The probe team will take into all aspects of the construction as well as the incident, she said.
Eyewitnesses said they heard shouts for help from under the debris. Locals complained that power cut and absence of cranes hampered the rescue efforts. Dikshit admitted that the cranes took time to reach there due to narrow bylanes.
Two of the floors of the 15-year-old building housed the offices of a cloth exporting firm and snacks item distributor.
Announcements were made asking people to be careful as there were gas cylinders in the debris. A 250-member disaster management team was deployed to help in the rescue operations.
Tents have been set up and food arranged for the survivors, Dikshit said.
(With PTI inputs)