Buildings collapse in Delhi killing at least three, more feared dead

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A six-storey apartment block collapsed into an adjacent building in a suburb of New Delhi killing at least three people, police said on Wednesday, as rescuers searched for people feared trapped in the rubble.

The collapse occurred on Tuesday night in the Greater Noida area and rescue workers were moving slowly through the debris in a search for survivors, police and the rescue team said.

“The buildings collapsed like a match box. The rescue efforts are taking time since we cannot use heavy machinery to clear the rubble for fear of harming the trapped victims,” a spokesman of the National Disaster Response Force told Reuters.

At least 12 laborers were inside the apartment block when it fell and were feared trapped, Indian media quoted the district’s chief fire officer Arun Kumar Singh as saying.

Search dogs deployed at the site did not find any survivors, officials said.

Building collapses in India are common during the June to September monsoon season when heavy rains weaken the foundations of badly constructed buildings.

Police arrested the builder of the apartment block and two of his associates for negligence, said senior official Ashish Srivastava. The district government ordered an investigation.

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Senior police official Ram Kumar said the two buildings appeared to have violated building codes and did not have approvals from the district government.

Greater Noida is one of several new areas to have sprung up around the Indian capital in the last decade. It is home to scores of residential and commercial buildings, many of them unfinished due to a lack of funds or government approvals.

The two collapsed buildings were built a few years ago but did not appear to have many occupants, Kumar said.

Residents of the area said only a few families had moved into the buildings, which were still occupied mainly by construction workers.

Reporting by Malini Menon; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Darren Schuettler