New Delhi: A cursory glance showed up five mangled bodies, hanging out from under the mounds of rubble. Many more bodies and trapped people were buried under the debris of the five-storeyed building that came crashing down like a pack of cards late Monday evening.
Authorities said at least 32 people were killed and around 90 injured in the house collapse in Lalita Park in Laxmi Nagar in east Delhi.
Household utensils, books, bundles of clothes, watches, shoes, lay strewn around - a grim reminder of the many families who lived there.
The house came crashing down at around 8.15 pm on Monday. Located amid very narrow lanes, it was mainly inhabited by migrant labourers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Meera Devi, who is from Bihar, was walking around looking distraught. Her husband is dead, say locals, but she believes he is alive under the rubble.
Rescuers found one man, trapped waist below in the rubble, miraculously alive. They passed him water to keep him alive, but the man next to him was dead.
The National Disaster Response Force team with specialised equipment arrived with sniffer dogs at midnight, four hours after the accident.
Around 500 people were working, including many locals, in the dark, with generators used to light up the area, to remove the rubble and bring out survivors.
Police barricaded entry to the spot, to prevent curious people from coming to view the goings on.
According to many locals, the building was not a five-storeyed house as television channels were claiming. "It was a seven-storeyed house. There was a basement as well, in which there was a cloth mill being run. Only five floors were permissible, the extra two floors were illegal," said Lal Singh, who lived in the neighbouring building.
Some of the locals said the building belonged to a man called Amit Singh. "He is a local goon with a lot of influence in political circles. A lot of inspections had been done earlier, but the building went unscathed. People have repeatedly complained about the building to authorities, but nothing happened. The building in front, and next to it also belong to Amit Singh," said another neighbour, who did not want to be named.
Another local chipped in: "He (the owner) has violated all the laws and norms. No one can lay a finger on him."
The locals, who were involved in the rescue work, showed their hands, bleeding from trying to remove the rubble with their bare hands.
Some of them were vomiting after viewing the mangled human remains that were being brought up.
Police, through the public address system, were asking people to move away and not crowd around and impede the rescue work.
The rescuers had formed two rows. One row was bringing up the dead or the alive from the rubble, while another row of people were passing bottles of drinking water and snacks to the rescuers who had been working for hours.
Suddenly, the rescuers gave out a loud cheer as a person was brought up alive from the rubble.
Ambulances were passing to and fro, taking the rescued and dead to the nearest hospitals.
A dilapidated three-room government building in front of the house also collapsed.
According to a neighbour, many of the families had gone home to Bihar for Chhath.