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Mumbai building collapse death toll hits 33

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The death toll from the collapse of a five-storey apartment block in Mumbai rose to 33 as rescuers frantically searched for around two dozen others trapped beneath the rubble, officials said Saturday.

Alok Avasthy of the National Disaster Management Authority said 33 bodies had been pulled from the wreckage of the building which caved in Friday while an equal number of people had been rescued.

"We were given 89 as the number of people in the building so we are now looking for 23 others still missing," Avasthy told AFP from a control centre set up at the collapse site.

He said a male survivor in his 40s was the latest to be pulled from under the twisted iron bars and chunks of fallen concrete on Saturday afternoon.

"One of his legs was stuck under a slab and he was brought out after it (the slab) was removed," Avasthy said by telephone.

Fifteen of the dead were women, the senior rescue official said, while a number of those rescued were being treated in hospital.

Local officials said 22 families had been housed in the block owned by the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai in the city's eastern suburbs.

"More (bodies) are buried in the rubble" Mumbai deputy police commissioner Tanaji Ghadge told AFP.

Distraught relatives stood tearfully watching the rescue efforts, hoping family members would be pulled alive from the mass of concrete.

The residential block collapsed at dawn Friday -- marking the latest building disaster to hit the city and surrounding area.

Several diggers had been pressed into action to lift some of the larger slabs of concrete, allowing teams of rescuers using heavy equipment to take out bodies and search for those still alive.

The Press Trust of India reported a civic body has filed a complaint against a contractor who had allegedly made some alterations to the ground floor of the building before it collapsed.

Local authorities said they would bear the cost of treating the injured and that compensation would be paid to families of the dead.

The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai said some of its employees and their families were housed in the structure and had been asked to leave earlier this year.

"The building was around 30 years old. We had issued a notice to them in April, to vacate the building, but they did not act," spokesman Vijay Khabale-Patil said.

He did not explain why the families had been asked to leave or whether alternative accommodation had been arranged.

Five other residential blocks have collapsed in or close to Mumbai in recent months, including one in April that killed 74 people.

Three buildings caved in during the month of June alone, killing 25 people between them. The monsoon season's heavy rains are thought to have exacerbated structural problems.

The incidents have highlighted poor quality construction and violations of the building code, caused by massive demand for housing and endemic corruption.

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 badly built homes.

More than half of the city's residents live in slums, while across India the urban housing shortage was estimated at nearly 19 million households in 2012.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130928/mumbai-building-collapse-death-toll-hits-33