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Scores Killed, Injured in New Delhi Building Collapse

Rescue workers pull out the body of a child from the remains of a four-story apartment building that collapsed in New Delhi, India, 16 Nov 2010

At least 66 people were killled, and around 80 others injured after a five-storey builidng collapsed in the India capital, New Delhi. Hundreds of anxious relatives crowded around the building in east Delhi as workers raced to rescue those trapped in its debris Tuesday morning.

The building caved in Monday night. But rescue efforts were slow because ambulances and heavy equipment needed to clear the rubble could not easily navigate the narrow alleys in the congested, working-class neighborhood. Workers, neighbors and residents used hammers and bare hands to dig through the concrete. Scores of injured people have been moved to hospitals.

The building housed about 200 people, mostly poor migrants and their families. Some small businesses also operated in the building.

Angry and weeping relatives demanded answers from authorities in New Delhi as to how the building came down in minutes.

The cause of the collapse is not clear. Some officials suggest that it may have been constructed in violation of building standards. Others said that unusually heavy monsoon rains could have weakened the foundation because the building is in an area that was inundated by floodwaters from the River Yamuna two months ago.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit called the scale of the tragedy unprecedented, and promised tough action against those found guilty. Dikshit said authorities will investigate to find out how five floors were constructed on a building which should have had only three, and which was built on a foundation that apparently could not support such a tall structure.

A top official in the Delhi government, Tejinder Khanna, pledged to tighten enforcement of building regulations. These are often violated. He said it is well known that due to the growing demands for space and population pressures, additional floors are often added to existing structures.

Authorities have asked residents to evacuate an adjacent building which might also be in danger of collapse, and have promised to survey other buildings in the area to assess their safety.