Mumbai, India (CNN)Authorities in the Indian city of Mumbai have called off a rescue operation after a three-story building came crashing down on its residents, killing at least 33 people and injuring dozens more.
Now residents in the working-class neighborhood of Bhendi Bazaar in Mumbai’s south, who saw their neighbors buried under the remains of their own home, are living in fear that they could be next — an official told CNN that “hundreds” of buildings across the city are in a similar condition.
Sabera Rangwalla has lived next door to the collapsed building for 30 years. She told CNN she was cooking breakfast for her family of five when she heard a “loud thunder.”
From her balcony, she saw a huge cloud of dust and the building fall down “like a house of cards.”
Rangwalla’s building has now been evacuated and police aren’t letting residents return, even to collect their belongings. When asked if she was worried that her home too could collapse, Rangwalla said: “New flats are too expensive and where will we go?”
Abbasshaik, a 45-year-old tailor who lives behind the collapsed building, told CNN he heard a loud crumbling sound and rushed his family to safety.
Out of fear they are now staying at a relative’s house, even though his building hasn’t been evacuated.
Building ‘unsafe to live’
The building collapse coincided with heavy rains that killed five people in Mumbai, devastating parts of India’s bustling financial hub.
There’s been no official link made between the widespread flooding and the building’s collapse. The structure was 117 years old and had been deemed unsafe years ago, according to officials, raising questions over why its residents hadn’t moved out.
“The building was served an ‘unsafe to live’ notice in 2013,” Mumbai police spokesperson Vijay Khabale-Patil told reporters Thursday.
“Ten families used to live in the building and some of them had vacated the property recently. So we don’t have an actual count of the missing people.”
Sajid Ali, a 49-year-old businessman who has run a nearby shop for 30 years, rushed to the building when one of his workers told him of the collapse. When he arrived he saw several dead bodies being removed, as well as the injured.
He told CNN that the death toll could have been much higher — a local kindergarten beneath the building would have opened an hour and a half after the collapse.
“They were very lucky and thank God … God saved them, the children,” Ali said.
Thursday’s building collapse is the second significant one to hit India’s financial hub this summer. More than a dozen people were killed when a five-story building collapsed in the Ghatkopar neighborhood in July.
In May, a wall collapsed at a wedding, killing 24 people.
Deadly infrastructure accidents are not unusual in India. Construction projects often lack proper oversight and safety controls, and law enforcement in the area is lax.