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Death Toll in Bombay Building Collapse Rises to 22

March 8, 1996

BOMBAY, India (AP) _ Handkerchiefs masking their faces, rescue workers dug 22 bodies from the concrete mountain of a collapsed apartment building and searched Friday for up to seven residents still missing.

Police said negligence may have helped cause the collapse.

The death toll could reach 30, said D.J. Kulkarni, Bombay’s chief fire officer and head of the rescue operation. The building, in a middle-class neighborhood of India’s largest city, was home to at least eight families.

More than 100 rescue workers with brightly colored bandanas protecting their faces against dust searched Friday as ambulances stood by.

Anxious relatives clambered over unsteady mounds of rubble and twisted girders, searching for survivors and recovering valuables. They picked their way amid mangled furniture, clothing remnants and kitchen utensils.

One neighbor said the collapse sounded like two trains colliding. Ten people were hospitalized; eight others were treated and released.

``It just folded up with a loud noise,″ said Shankar Nirmal, a travel agent who lives opposite the five-story Naware building, which came crashing down Thursday night.

Survivor Jeevan Singh, 9, recounted how he was watching Hong Kong karate star Jackie Chan on television and awaiting a noodle dinner from his aunt, Manju Bhooi, when the walls shook.

``The whole building moved and the ceiling fell down,″ said the sixth-grade student, who found himself buried under rubble.

``We shouted loudly for help, but no one heard us,″ Mrs. Bhooi said Friday after rescue workers clawed through concrete blocks to yank her out 18 hours after the collapse. She escaped with a broken foot.

Police said a building occupant altered pillars and beams that may have unsettled the structure. The building was at least 30 years old, neighbors said.

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