Mumbai homes collapse death toll reaches 72

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POLICE arrested two builders yesterday as rescue workers finished a two-day search for survivors in the collapse of a residential building being constructed illegally in India’s financial capital.

At least 72 people were killed in the accident, the worst house collapse in the country in recent decades.

Another 70 people were injured when the eight-story building on forest land in the Mumbai suburb of Thane caved in into a mound of steel and concrete on Thursday, police said. The dead included 17 children.

Thirty-six of the injured were still in city hospitals and the rest were discharged after medical treatment, said Sandeep Malvi, a spokesman for the local municipality.

Local police commissioner K P Raghuvanshi said two builders were taken into custody and would be charged after an investigation.

On Friday police registered a case of culpable homicide against the builders, Salil, who uses one name, and Khalil Jamadar, the Press Trust of India news agency said. If convicted, they can be sentenced up to life in prison.

Rescue workers with sledgehammers, chainsaws and hydraulic hammers worked relentlessly to break through the tower of rubble in their search for survivors, police officer Dahi Phale said. Six bulldozers were brought to the scene.

Twenty bodies were recovered overnight and the rescue work ended at noon yesterday after 42 hours, Malvi said.

Prithviraj Chavan, the top elected official of Maharashtra state, said that a government investigation had been ordered into the accident, and that a deputy municipal commissioner and a senior police officer had been suspended for dereliction of duty.