At least 42 people were killed and 65 others injured when a residential building caved in at a congested east Delhi locality tonight in the worst house collapse incident in the city in recent times.

The building collapsed at around 8.15 pm in busy Lalita Park area of Laxmi Nagar. Scores of people are still feared to be under the debris, a senior police official said.

Delhi Health Minister Kiran Walia said 42 people were killed in the incident. She said 29 bodies have been taken to Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, seven to Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital, five to Hedgewar Hospital and one to Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital. Police and medical officials said 65 people were injured.

Urvashi Sarkar and Devesh K. Pandey report:

Tragedy struck around 8 p.m. when the 25-year-old building that was home to over 100 people caved in. Locals said the building was home to migrant labourers. Several teams, including a unit of the disaster management team, were at the site till late at night looking for survivors.

“It was a pancake collapse. Many of the trapped have been pulled out and rushed to different hospitals in coordination with various agencies. A majority of them have sustained injuries on the head and limbs,” said Fire Chief R.C. Sharma.

The injured were rushed to Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital, Jaya Prakash Narayan Hospital, Hedgewar Hospital and Max Hospital.

Late at night, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said an enquiry into the incident would be instituted and compensation for the victims announced on Tuesday.

Delhi Finance Minister A.K. Walia and East Delhi MP Sandeep Dikshit were among the first to arrive at the accident site and they supervised rescue operations.

Dr. Walia said the building had more than 100 residents. Asked if the building had violated construction norms, Mr. Walia said the collapse had taken place owing to seepage in the basement. A bewildered 35-year-old Dipali Haldar, a resident of the building who was away at the time of the tragedy, said she had lost her daughter. “Two of my sons have been sent to hospital. But my daughter lies trapped under the rubble. There is no news about the whereabouts of my grandchildren either.”

Ms. Dipali did not know which hospital her sons were taken to.

A teary Bidyadut Sarkar said he too did not know which hospital his wife and three children were rushed to. Mr. Bidyadut, who was not in the building at the time, claimed that he was paying over Rs. 3,000 per month as rent.

Angry locals alleged that the police took a long time in reaching the spot. The police too had a tough time managing the large agitated crowds which made the situation even more chaotic. “The crowds are hindering the pace of the operations,” a Delhi Police officer said.

Extricating people from the rubble also proved to be a tough time as room had to be made for the cranes. Some trees had to be brought down.

A Laxmi Nagar resident, Anil Kumar, said: “The building owners were trying to add another storey to the building despite its weakened state. An incident such as this was waiting to happen. Laxmi Nagar is full of unauthorised constructions and buildings with weak foundations. There could be more tragedies if immediate action is not taken.”

Delhi Health Minister Kiran Walia said the hospital authorities responded well to the crisis and each and every victim was being attended to properly. Twenty ambulances are being used to ferry the injured, she said.

While ambulances rushed the injured to various hospitals, locals joined hands with the rescue teams in removing the rubble with their hands in search of trapped victims. There was tension all around as the rescue teams faced difficulties in reaching the site because of the narrow lanes of the congested colony.

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