At least seventeen people have been killed after a five-storey building under construction collapsed in the southern Indian state of Goa, authorities said.

At least a dozen others were believed to be trapped under the rubble after the residential building in the city of Canacona caved in on Saturday afternoon.

The chances of finding survivors were slim given the length of time since the accident, an official said. 

"Only a miracle can save them," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Digging at the site was halted temporarily on Monday after two adjacent buildings, also under construction, developed wide cracks, raising fears that they might also collapse. Police cordoned off the area and called engineers to inspect the two buildings, police officer Mohan Naik said.

About 50 daily-wage labourers were working on the site when the accident happened, police said.

Fire and emergency service crews rushed to the spot. Rescue workers using cranes and bulldozers, shovels and bare hands struggled to shift concrete slabs and other debris to free the trapped labourers.

"It was like an earthquake when the building fell," witness Ramesh Naik said. "You could not see what exactly had happened because of the dust."

Sniffer dogs have also been brought in to try to find those trapped.

Goan police are searching for the builder and the contractor who have gone missing since the tragedy.

Building collapses are common in India, as high demand for housing and lax regulations often encourage builders to cut corners by using substandard materials or add unauthorised extra floors.

"We will immediately arrest the builder, the contractor and municipal officials involved in sanctioning this construction site," Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said. "I am personally monitoring the situation."

Last September, a rundown five-storey residential block in India's financial hub Mumbai collapsed, killing 60 people.

British daily The Guardian collected statistics showing that 2,651 people were killed across India in 2012 due to the collapse of 2,737 structures, including houses and bridges.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies