India building collapse rescue ends with 61 dead

July 04, 2014 - 6:01:23 pm

NEW DELHI: Rescue efforts at a building which collapsed last weekend in southern India wound up Friday with the final death toll at 61, an official said.

The 11-storey apartment tower on the outskirts of Tamil Nadu's state capital Chennai, which was still under construction, came crashing down on Saturday following heavy rains, killing mainly labourers.

Karuna Sagar, a senior officer with the Tamil Nadu state police force, said the death toll from the disaster stood at 61 and added that most of the debris had been cleared.

"The rescue efforts have come to an end. The final (death) toll stands at 61 and we earlier pulled out 27 survivors," Sagar told AFP by telephone.

"The debris has mostly been cleared up and no other survivors have been found," he added.

Rescuers had been working almost round the clock, using drills, mechanical diggers and heavy-cutting equipment to break through slabs of concrete for nearly a week.

Sagar said the state police will coordinate with the one-man commission appointed by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram to investigate the disaster.

Six people have been arrested so far for negligence, including the chief builder and the architect.

The collapse came only hours after a dilapidated apartment block crumbled in New Delhi, killing 10 people including five children.

A massive influx of people to cities in search of jobs and a shortage of low-cost housing has fuelled fast construction of buildings across the country, often using substandard material.

Millions also live in dilapidated old buildings that have frequently caved in during heavy rains.

Last September, more than 50 people were crushed to death when a five-storey building collapsed in India's financial hub Mumbai.

Most of the victims of the Chennai tragedy were construction workers, who were reportedly in the building to collect their wages. (AFP)