Five persons, including two women, had a miraculous escape when a double-storied building, estimated to be over 120 years old and which was in the possession of a court-appointed receiver for the last 41 years, collapsed here on Tuesday.

The building, near the Municipal Council office, collapsed around 1.30 p.m. Three persons escaped while two women, Renuka, 40, and Sunitha Rani, 29, who were trapped inside the debris were rescued by the Fire and Rescue Services personnel. The women were employees of a tile and brick dealership located on the ground floor of the building. The others were present at a building designer's office and at the AITUC Union office, situated on the first floor of the building.

The building, originally owned by one Amina Bai and later inherited by her Mumbai-based relative Fathima Beevi, was taken over in 1969 by a receiver appointed by the court after the chit fund run by Amina Bai's family broke and depositors moved the court. The 35-cent plot and building are currently in the possession of receiver P.S. Sreeja.

While Ms. Sreeja told reporters that the tenants had been served a notice two months ago to vacate the premises, the tenants said they had warned the receiver that the building, without maintenance and repair works for the past several years, could come down any moment.

Several public representatives and organisations pointed out here on Tuesday that there were several buildings that were over 100 years old. Many of them were not properly maintained and could collapse any moment. A project to declare Alappuzha town as a heritage spot and to arrange funds for the conservation of heritage buildings here is still in the preparation stage, they pointed out. They demanded that the government should interfere immediately and initiate steps to conserve ancient buildings, many of which dated back to the early 19th century.

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