Delhi building collapse toll rises to five, AAP-BJP trade charges

New Delhi: The toll in a four-storey house collapse in Delhi rose to five on Sunday with the recovery of the body of a nine-year-old girl from the debris. The tragedy saw the AAP government and the BJP-ruled civic body engaged in a blame game.

Rescue workers found the girl's body sandwiched between two broken doors.

The rescuers, using earth-moving equipment, shovels and bare hands, shifted mangled heaps of steel and concrete to locate the girl. The building in Vishnu Garden area, a working class locality, collapsed late on Saturday.

"We pulled out the body of the girl from between two doors. She has been identified as Aakanksha (9)," Joint Commissioner of Police Dependra Pathak told IANS.

Three people died on Saturday, while a 50-year-old man succumbed to injuries on Sunday morning. All the victims hail from Uttar Pradesh.

Om Prakash, 50, died of his injuries in Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital.

The three other dead have been identified as Beena, a 15-year-old girl, and a recently married couple -- Sadam (30) and Sarbati (33).

Twelve other people were injured in the incident, according to the district administration.

While two of them suffered minor injuries, the rest 10 were admitted to Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital for treatment. Six have serious injuries, the hospital said.

Vishnu Garden area falls under the west zone of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC).

The Aam Aadmi Party government in Delhi has ordered an inquiry into the incident, and accused the BJP-led SDMC of failing to ensure the building's compliance with safety standards, charges which have been denied by the civic body.

"People have told me that there was construction going on and the entire building has collapsed on one side," Delhi's PWD Minister Satyendra Jain said.

"Whatever construction work was going on, the MCD had full responsibility to stop it, which they should have done. The government has ordered an investigation by the district magistrate, and the report will be submitted within seven days," Jain said.

He said strict action will be taken "against the culprits".

Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner of Police (West Delhi) Pushpendra Kumar said a complaint on charges of causing death by negligence has been registered in connection with the collapse.

The SDMC refuted the allegations and claimed the collapse was due to "seepage in the sewer line" dug by the Delhi Jal Board next to the house three months ago that had "weakened" the foundation of the building, leading to its collapse.

Municipal authorities said they had granted permission to the house owner, a builder, for only three floors (including the ground floor) and not five in 2009.

"The top two floors were constructed without permission, as we had granted permission for only three floors. In fact, the foundation of the building was also weak," an SDMC official said.

Later, another SDMC official said "no building laws were violated" as alleged by the AAP government. The building was 25 years old.

BJP leader and South Delhi Mayor Subhash Arya, who visited the accident site on Sunday along with SDMC officials, blamed the AAP legislators for the incident.

"Local AAP MLAs stop municipal officials from taking regular action against unauthorised constructions when they visit the area," Arya alleged.

The district magistrate has announced compensation for the victims as per government norms.

Meanwhile, the BJP's Delhi unit president Satish Upadhyay assured that the victims will get justice.

"I do not want to politicise the issue and will speak only after a thorough investigation," he said.

"Delhi Jal Board doesn't have the authority to allow digging in the capital, they have to seek permission from MCD. Whether MCD allowed it or not? Whether the Jal Board did it all by itself? Every angle will be investigated and action will be taken soon," he said.

Taking potshots at the AAP government, Congress leader Ajay Maken said: "A week ago, the high court issued notice to the Delhi government regarding illegal constructions in Delhi."

"The AAP's first cabinet decision to stop demolition of unauthorised construction is responsible for such incidents, leading to death of many," he said.

However, residents maintained that everything was legal. It was only the fault of the Delhi Jal Board, which had dug a nine-feet-deep drain along the narrow 12 feet lane on which the house was located. Moreover, the DJB had also left the drain open for months, leading to the loosening of the foundation of the house.

"It is the fault of the Delhi Jal Board. The private contractor hired by the Jal Board dug up the drain without any supervision," Kuldeep Singh, a resident, told IANS.

"The drain was left open since it was dug three months ago. Obviously, water collected and loosened the foundation of the building," he added.

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