|Rescue efforts were hampered as emergency vehicles found it difficult to navigate through narrow alleys [Reuters]
At least 60 people have been killed and more than 60 injured after a five-storey residential building collapsed in the Indian capital, New Delhi, officials say.
Scores more were trapped under debris after the building fell on Monday, B K Gupta, the city police commissioner, said.
Rajan Bhagat, a city police spokesman, told the AFP news agency more people would be pulled out of the debris.
“There are many victims still trapped below the concrete rubble and iron rods,” he said.
“Our challenge is to evacuate them alive. We can confirm that 60 people are dead and 80 are being treated in several hospitals.”
Sheila Dikshit, the city’s chief minister, said it was an “unprecedented tragedy” and that an inquiry had been launched into the disaster.
“I think it is the carelessness of the builder who did not build a strong enough building to withstand a flood that came about a month ago,” she told the NDTV news channel.
“The scale of the tragedy is unprecedented. I don’t think such a tragedy has taken place in Delhi in the recent past.”
The Press Trust of India quoted A K Walia, the city’s finance minister, as saying the foundation of the building could have been weakened by recent flooding sparked by monsoon rains.
India has seen some of the strongest monsoon rains in decades, which burst the banks of the nearby river Yamuna that runs through New Delhi.
M P Singh, of the Delhi police control room, told AFP that police had identified the owner of the building and would be questioning him shortly.
Witnesses said they heard shouts for help from under the debris, while residents complained that power cuts and the absence of cranes hampered the rescue efforts initially.
“The building fell like a pack of cards. I saw people high up hanging onto remaining bits of the walls. Some were trying to jump out but they couldn’t. Others were trapped,” Gurwinder Singh, a local taxi driver, told AFP.
Girija Devi, a mother of four who worked at a tailoring unit in the building, said: “I was pulled out last night by some of the neighbours but my sister is still stuck below the debris.”
Rescue workers were pulling out people trapped under the rubble, but their efforts were hampered as emergency vehicles found it difficult to navigate the narrow alleys of Lalita Park, the residential neighbourhood where the accident occurred.
The injured were rushed to two local hospitals.