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Rescuers Dig for India Building Collapse Survivors

By: Mayabhushan Nagvenkar - ASSOCIATED PRESS

Building collapses are common in India.  The image above shows workers sifting through the rubble of the collapse of an illegal building in Bellary, Karnataka on January 26th, 2010.

Building collapses are common in India. The image above shows workers sifting through the rubble of the collapse of an illegal building in Bellary, Karnataka on January 26th, 2010.

PANAJI, India (AP) Rescuers using backhoes and shovels searched for survivors Jan. 5 under a massive pile of broken concrete and dust that was left when a residential building under construction collapsed in southern India, killing at least 15 workers.

Authorities suspected dozens more may be trapped under the rubble, but were still trying to determine how many workers were on site when the five-story structure crumpled in the state of Goa. Witnesses reported seeing at least 40 workers.

Soldiers and firefighters listened for movement or cries from the wreckage as they worked overnight to clear the debris, state official Venancio Furtado said.

At least 10 people were pulled out alive overnight, but the chance of finding survivors was dwindling, Furtado said. By the afternoon of Jan. 5, the death toll had reached 15, according to the state government.

Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said he ordered a review of the construction project, after seeing cracks that developed in the adjacent apartment building constructed by the same company, Mumbai-based Bharat Developers and Realtors Pvt. Ltd.

“The design is faulty, which is why the tragedy happened,'' Parrikar said.

Police began investigating both the building company and city officials who approved the construction on a patch of marshland in Canacona, about 44 mi. (70 km) from the state capital of Panaji. But they have been unable to track down the construction manager and building contractor.


“Without the contractor, it is impossible for us to know how many laborers were on the shift,'' said state official Ajit Panchwadkar, who was supervising the rescue effort.

Many of the workers had come from other, poorer states, including Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, in search of jobs in India's thriving construction business. One worker who was not at the scene when the building collapsed said he earned about $4.80 for a day's work, according to Press Trust of India.

Several workers took the day off Jan. 4 to attend a nearby state cultural fair.

“We rushed from the event when we heard that the building had fallen,'' said Manoj Kumar, a worker originally from the eastern state of Orissa.

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 unauthorized extra floors.