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Building collapse kills four in India's Mumbai, scores trapped

A woman prays for her relatives trapped under the rubble at the site of a collapsed residential building in Mumbai September 27, 2013. REUTE
A woman prays for her relatives trapped under the rubble at the site of a collapsed residential building in Mumbai September 27, 2013. REUTE

By Rajendra Jadhav

MUMBAI (Reuters) - A five-storey apartment block collapsed on Friday in the Indian financial centre of Mumbai, killing at least four people and trapping scores in the latest accident to underscore shoddy building standards in Asia's third-largest economy.

The building collapsed at about 5:45 a.m. (0015 GMT) and more than 110 people were still trapped by early afternoon, said Ram Barot, a official of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. The corporation's employees were housed in the building.

A neighbor in the next block said she heard a loud cracking sound as the building caved in.

"As dust settled, I realized BMC building was gone," the neighbor, Catherine James, told Reuters.

Rescue workers used six cranes to remove debris and they pulled dozens of people from the ruins. The building was believed to have been about 35 years old and home to about 20 families.

"Five members from my family were trapped inside. So far, two have been rescued. I am praying to God others will also come alive," said Preeti Pawar, who was standing among crowds of relatives and onlookers outside the collapsed block.

The cause of the collapse was not known.

Mumbai mayor Sunil Prabhu said the block was not on an official list of dilapidated buildings.

In April, a building collapse killed 72 people in Thane, just outside Mumbai. Officials later said the structure had been built using poor materials and did not have proper approvals.

A shortage of cheap homes has led to a rise in illegal construction by developers who use substandard materials and shoddy methods and then offer rock-bottom rents to low-paid workers.

A sharp rise in property prices in densely populated Mumbai over the past five years has put affordable housing out of reach of tens of thousands of people, many of them migrants who move to the city for work.

"Again and again, the same kind of tragedies are striking but the government is not learning anything," said Vinod Tawde, a politician from the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

"The government should evacuate all people staying in dangerous buildings."

Onlookers cheered and clapped as emergency workers rescued residents. Others climbed onto walls to get a better look at the collapsed block, which is close to docks in southern Mumbai.

(Additional reporting by Aradhana Aravindan from Mumbai; Writing By Sruthi Gottipati; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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