More survivors in India disaster rubble, toll hits 28

NEW DELHI, India – Emergency workers Tuesday pulled out three more survivors from the rubble of a collapsed building in southern India as authorities said they expected to wind up rescue efforts.


While the death toll from Saturday's disaster on the outskirts of Chennai rose to 28, officials said more than a dozen people were still believed to be trapped in the debris. Karuna Sagar, a senior officer with the Tamil Nadu state police force, said the three latest survivors were rescued overnight as hundreds of workers toiled round the clock.


"Three people have been pulled out alive. One late at night and two others early this morning. They have been taken to the hospital," Sagar told AFP by phone. "There may be another 15-20 trapped, but rescue efforts are in progress and going according to plan." Sagar said that the number of people known to have died now stood at 28.


NDTV news channel reported that a fourth victim, a 50-year-old woman, had been rescued alive Tuesday morning but died soon after. D. Chandran, a state administration officer, said that a total of 26 survivors had been rescued since Saturday night but he indicated that the operation was drawing to a close. "The search is still on. We are trying to do everything to save people," Chandran told AFP.


"With a lot of debris removed, search will become faster and (rescue efforts) will likely close before end of today," he added, speaking in English. Reports said that one of the survivors, a 27-year-old man named Mahesh, had indicated Tuesday that there were several people still alive under the mass of concrete, raising hopes of rescuers and families.


Television footage showed rescuers wearing hard hats and masks carrying a survivor on a stretcher down a hill of debris to an ambulance. Most victims were construction workers, who were reportedly in the building to collect their wages. Emergency teams used mechanical diggers and heavy-cutting equipment to try and find more survivors in the ruins of what was a partially-built 11-storey complex.


Six people have been arrested so far on account of negligence, including the builder and his son, the architect of the residential tower and three others overseeing the construction. The collapse in Tamil Nadu on Saturday came only hours after a dilapidated apartment block crumbled in the capital New Delhi, killing 10 people including five children.


Building collapses are common in India. Lax regulations and the demand for cheap housing mean contractors sometimes use substandard materials or add unauthorised extra floors. In September last year more than 50 people were crushed to death when a five-storey building collapsed in India's financial capital of Mumbai on the west coast.

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