Delhi building collapse: 20 still missing, probe ordered (Roundup)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NEW DELHI - Two days after a building collapsed in east Delhi, rescuers were still struggling to reach around 20 persons feared still trapped under the debris. The tragedy has claimed 67 lives so far, and left 82 injured.

The building, inhabited by poor migrant families from Bihar and West Bengal and located in congested Lalita Park locality near the Yamuna river in east Delhi, suddenly collapsed around 8.15 p.m. Monday.

“Seventy-four are injured badly. The rest, who were standing near the building, received minor injuries,” Joint Commissioner of Police (East) Dharmendra Kumar told IANS.

Amrit Pal Singh, the owner of the building, was arrested Tuesday evening, after he went into hiding Monday night. He was presented d before Karkardooma court here Wednesday, and was remanded to two days’ police custody.

Singh maintained that he had followed all rules in the construction of the building, and had not bribed ministers and officials to get no-objection certificate for it.

“I have not bribed anyone. I told all ministers personally about the details of the building. The reports of me bribing officials to get a no objection certificate are completely false,” he said.

Singh is charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code for the deaths caused by the building collapse.

Police say Singh has more than 25 cases pending against him, including those of murder, robbery and dacoity.

“The accused is a seasoned criminal and has a history of criminal involvement, including adulterating building materials and cement,” Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (East) I.B. Rani said.

Meanwhile, the Delhi government has ordered a judicial probe.

Former Delhi High Court Judge Lokeshwar Prashad will conduct the inquiry and submit his report within 90 days, a Delhi government statement Wednesday said.

“The probe will fix responsibility, both individual and institutional, for the collapse of the building and indicate the measures required to improve the responses and prevent such incidents in future,” the statement added.

Sudden showers Wednesday morning slowed down the clearing operations at the site, officials said. Rescue workers said most of the debris was removed by the morning.

“Now the officials are removing the rubble from the area. There are huge slabs lying there. We think some dead bodies might be underneath, but we are cautious in removing those slabs, as we fear the adjacent building may collapse,” Kumar added.

With whereabouts of many persons still unclear, family members were growing anxious by the hour.

Minoti, who lost her husband and is now desperately looking for her two children, said she doesn’t care about compensation announced by Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit.

“I don’t want any money. Let the government keep the compensation money. I just want to see my children’s bodies. One is 12 years old, the other is 13. But the pace of rescue operation is so slow,” Minoti told IANS, her voice choking.

“I know around 20 people who stayed in the building. Three children are dead, but there’s no information about the rest of them,” a local resident, Lakshmi Haldar, said.

“I have informed their families in Bihar about the accident. But until I see their bodies, or get some kind of information, what do I tell them? Even the hospitals have not put up their pictures,” she said.

“I wish they would allow us to help in the rescue work. We helped in the beginning and can do so again,” Lakshmi said.

Residents from three nearby building have been evacuated, but authorities have not made arrangements for their relocation.

Hundreds of them are living under open sky in the neighbourhood park.

“We have been out in the open since Monday night. We are not getting food and water and the cold is killing us,” said Reena.

“Many people are suffering from fever and there is no help from any corner. I have paid Rs.500 to an auto rickshaw driver to help me shift my luggage,” said Sukhdev Singh, a carpenter.

The Delhi Municipal Corporation also gave a 24-hour evacuation notice to 38 buildings in the neighbourhood, but has not made any alternate arrangements for the residents of these buildings.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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