Rescuers found two more bodies overnight under a massive pile of broken concrete left when a residential building collapsed in southern India at the weekend, raising the death toll to at least 17 workers, a lawmaker said on Monday.
Local legislator Ramesh Tawadkar said rescuers had so far recovered 23 survivors, pulling the last from the wreckage late Sunday in the state of Goa. But there was little hope of finding any more people alive in the rubble two days after the collapse.
“Only a miracle can save them,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Another 16 people were recovering in hospital, the official said.
Police said they were unable to officially determine how many workers were on site when the five-storey structure, which was under construction, crumpled on Saturday because they could not reach the builder or contractor, who are suspected of fleeing.
Officers have registered cases against them, and others involved in the building’s construction, for allegedly endangering human life, causing death and negligence.
The building, which was under construction, collapsed while more than 40 poorly paid daily-wage labourers were on site in the southern tourism state of Goa.
A local government official, Ajit Panchwadkar, said that unless the contractor was traced or the debris cleared, they would not know how many were on the site.
Rescue workers were using bulldozers, shovels and bare hands to try to shift concrete slabs and other debris from the site in the seaside village of Canacona, south of the state capital Panaji.
“The rescue work is tedious. You have to ensure that the nearby buildings don’t get damaged and also the debris doesn’t collapse further while digging in,” the official said.
Sniffer dogs have also been brought in to try to find those trapped.
The construction was being done on a patch of marshland in Canacona, about 70 kilometres from the state capital of Panaji.
Building collapses are common in India, as massive demand for housing and lax regulations often encourage builders to cut corners by using substandard materials or add unauthorised extra floors.
In September a rundown residential block in the financial hub Mumbai collapsed, killing 60 people. Another building collapse in the city in April killed 74.