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India building collapse kills one, dozens feared trapped

One person has died and at least 100 feared trapped in the debris of a five-storey building that collapsed in an industrial town in western India’s Maharashtra state, officials said.

Not all the roughly 200 residents of the building in Raigad district’s Mahad town, about 165km (100 miles) south of India’s financial capital Mumbai, were at home when it crumbled in the evening, local legislator Bharatshet Maruti Gogawale told the Reuters news agency on Monday.

India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) spokesman Sachidanand Gawde told reporters that emergency workers had retrieved the body of one victim, who has not yet been identified.

“I believe about 100 to 125 people must have been inside at the time of its collapse,” Gogawale, who was present at the accident site, told Reuters.

The building was comprised of 47 flats, police officials in Mahad said in a statement.

Local residents and police combed through tin sheets, metal rods and other wreckage in a desperate search for survivors as ambulances ferried victims to nearby hospitals.

Authorities said more than two dozen people were pulled out by rescue teams and taken to hospital amid heavy monsoon rains.

NDRF rescue teams and canine squads were deployed to the scene of the accident.

An unnamed official with the Maharashtra state Disaster Management Unit later told the Press Trust of India that at least 51 people were missing.

A man removes the debris after a five-storey building collapsed in Raigad in the western state of Maharashtra [Reuters]

Former Mahad legislator Manik Motiram Jagtap told the local TV9 Marathi channel that the structure was 10 years old and built on “weak” foundations.

“It fell like a house of cards,” he said. “It is a scary situation.”

The office of Uddhav Thackeray, chief minister of Maharashtra state, said on Twitter that he had been in touch with local representatives in the area.

“He has assured them that all possible support will be extended for speedy rescue and relief works,” the tweet said.

The cause of the accident was not clear. But building collapses are common in India, usually due to shoddy construction, substandard materials and disregard of regulations.

More than 1,200 people were killed in 1,161 building collapses across India in 2017, according to latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau.

Many of these accidents occur between June and September during the monsoon season, which plays a vital role in boosting agricultural harvests across South Asia.

But the monsoon season also causes widespread death and destruction, unleashing floods, triggering building collapses and inundating low-lying villages.

The death toll from monsoon-related disasters this year has topped 1,200, including more than 800 lives lost in India alone, according to a tally by the AFP news agency.

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