MUMBAI (AFP) – An apartment block collapsed in Mumbai's outskirts Friday, killing at least 10 people in the latest deadly incident to fuel concerns about the quality of construction in the booming Indian city.
Rescue workers were using hand-held wire cutters and excavators to search through the rubble for survivors after the building on Mumbai's outskirts collapsed while many of its residents were sleeping, officials said.
"There have been 10 deaths, five adults and five children," said K.P. Raghuvanshi, police commissioner of Thane district, where the incident occurred.
Thane police said 14 others more suffered minor injuries.
Among those killed were a two-month-old girl and a seven-year-old boy, said Sandeep Malvi, spokesman for the Thane municipal corporation.
Police said an investigation was under way into the cause of what was the third building collapse in recent months in the Mumbai area, including one in April that killed 74 people.
The collapses have highlighted widespread shoddy construction standards in India, where a huge demand for housing and pervasive corruption often result in cost-cutting and a lack of safety inspections.
"The pace of urbanisation in India's large cities is unmanageable," said Anurag Mathur, a senior executive at property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle India.
"Sometimes the codes of construction, building safety and upgrades are either not followed or not carried out regularly," he told AFP.
Police said 20 people had been rescued from under the debris on Friday, while local reports said the three-storey building, built in 1979, was home to nine families.
The spokesman, Malvi, said monsoon rains may have triggered the collapse but "we can't say that's the only reason".
The incident happened about 35 kilometres (20 miles) from the centre of the financial capital, close to the scene of the apartment block that collapsed in April, which was one of the worst such incidents in decades.
Two builders and seven others were arrested in connection with the collapse of the unauthorised and partly finished building.
Many of the victims were poor daily wage earners and their families, who were living with them at the site.
Just last week, part of a five-storey apartment block in central Mumbai caved in and killed 10 people. The accident was blamed on alleged illegal alterations to the structure, exacerbated by heavy monsoon rains.
The high cost of property in Mumbai and surrounding areas pushes many low-paid families, especially newly arrived migrants from other parts of India, into often illegal and poorly constructed homes.
Shekar Reddy, president of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers' Associations of India, said civic authorities have a duty to pull up builders who may have violated norms.
The latest collapse "is a sign of a system failure and such incidents will go on," he said.
India's urban housing shortage was estimated at nearly 19 million households in 2012, and in Mumbai the situation is so dire that more than half of the city's residents live in slums.
In another of the worst recent Indian cases, 69 people were killed and more than 80 injured by a building collapse in the capital New Delhi in 2010.