24 killed, 90 injured in Delhi house collapse (Third Lead)

November 16th, 2010 - 1:45 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 16 (IANS) At least 24 people were killed and around 90 injured when a five-storeyed house collapsed in east Delhi’s Laxmi Nagar Monday night. Scores of people are believed to be trapped under the rubble, officials said.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said that 24 people were killed in the house collapse at Lalita Park colony on the Yamuna embankment.

She said 200-300 people were involved in the rescue operations.

“We will need to be able to rescue those who can be rescued alive. That is priority number one. Nobody seems to know how many are there,” she said.

According to a resident of the building, the building housed around 250 people, mainly migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

“I was told on the phone that our building has collapsed and I came here to see that the structure had turned into rubble. My mother and two brothers were inside. The recent overflowing of the Yamuna river had caused waterlogging in the basement of the building and it had not been pumped out,” the woman resident said.

The building had single rooms with around 250 people, she added.

On allegations that the rescue personnel had reached the spot late, Dikshit said: “There are very narrow lanes. The crane did take some time, but the fire people were there immediately, the DC(deputy commissioner) was there, disaster (teams) was there.

“It was a ‘pucca’ building, but it could be a illegal building. I hope that this is a eyeopener. I believe that there was water in the basement for days, which was something which the owner should have noticed.”

Delhi Fire Service chief fire officer R.C. Sharma said that at least 40 people have been rescued and sent to the hospital. Their condition is said to be critical. He said work rescue work is expected to go till the morning.

The state government has also called in the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to help in rescue efforts.

“The National Disaster Response Force was summoned about 10-10.15 p.m. and we moved from Greater Noida at 10.20 p.m.,” said NDRF Inspector General Mukul Goel, adding that two teams were prepared for the rescue operations.

Eyewitnesses said there were shouts coming from the people trapped under the rubble.

Emergency services and heavy equipment to remove the rubble were delayed in reaching the spot due to the narrow streets of the colony. The darkness and rain also hampered the rescue effort, though local people were removing the concrete pieces by hand.

“There are no (gas) cutters here to remove the rubble. We are removing the debris with the help of rods and sticks as a result I’ve injured my hand. There are absolutely no arrangements in place here for us,” said a local helping in the rescue work.

The injured have been taken to Lok Nayak Jaiprakash Narayan hospital and Lal Bahadur Shastri hospital.

There are several versions for the building collapse. “It seems that the basement of the building was filled with water, which could have caused the collapse,” Finance Minister A.K. Walia, who reached the spot, told reporters.

But, according to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi official, the main reason could have been illegal construction. “Just three days ago, we prevented another five storey building in Mahavir Enclave from collapsing, by demolishing the illegal structures,” he said.

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