A few residents and workers rushed out in time as building crashed on to a single-storey structure right behind it

Around 5.30 p.m. on Saturday, as heavy rains lashed the city in a sudden, unexpected cloudburst, faith and belief came tumbling down in Moulivakkam.

A residential building collapsed, trapping around 30 construction workers who had worked on it over the past year. The high-rise also brought down a 20-year-old, single-storey building right behind it.

Ramaiah S. of Rajarajan Nagar extension, 1 street, was watching TV when he heard a loud, rumbling sound, and felt a tremor.

“We rushed out immediately and saw the building had come down. We escaped but the residents of the building next to ours were not as lucky,” he said, standing amidst the rubble.

Seven families are believed to have been living in the single-storey behind the construction site. Ganesh’s wife managed to run out in time, but the 44-year-old was trapped inside.

At the construction site, Malik J. from West Bengal, scanned the area for his son. Twenty-one-year-old Abi seemed to be trapped in the debris.

A construction worker himself, Malik works on a different site. “I had come to fetch him after work,” he said, looking about the area blanketed by darkness, after electricity was cut off in the entire neighbourhood.

Like Malik and Abi, almost all the construction workers hail from West Bengal, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. The temporary shelters set up at the corner of the site, where they stayed, remained intact.  

For Sankar, it was a narrow escape. “I was working on the first floor, and was able to rush out in time,” he said. He was taken to hospital, but not before he managed to call the relatives of those trapped in the rubble.  

Traffic came to a standstill as Kundrathur Main Road bore the rush of ambulances and rescue vehicles. The street on which the site is located is so narrow that passage for these vehicles proved to be slow and difficult. The police cordoned off the area.

Vijay Sekar, deputy director of Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services, said it would be a long night. “Rescue operations will go through the night,” he said.