Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Sunday evening said there were around 72 workers in the 11-storey building at the time of the collapse, of which 21 have been rescued so far.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) from the Arakkonam base has been leading the rescue work using sophisticated equipment and trained personnel. Speaking , Mr SP Selvan, DIG said, “Clearing the debris is a huge challenge. This would take almost two to three days and we are hopeful of saving many lives, going by our previous experiences in other places”.
In a village in Madurai, Ms Alagurani lost her husband who worked as a mason in the building. She says, “He was working in Chennai as a mason. Now we hear he is dead. The government should help our family.”
Many of the workers are from Andhra Pradesh and northern states. Not far away from the tragedy spot, Murugesh a construction worker from Andhra Pradesh is anxiously waiting to hear some news about his missing brother, Logesh. He told, “I am worried that he will die. I am scared.”
Police have arrested five people including the promoters and engineers for alleged irregularities and compromising on quality and safety. Ms Jayalalithaa said, “It appears they have not adhered to approved plans. The building appears to have serious structural defects”.
Ms Jayalalithaa’s visit to the collapse site also shifted focus, from the rescue operations to receiving her. Since late afternoon work had almost stopped for three hours. A heavy vehicle deployed for rescue was diverted to clean up the place. Rains too hampered the rescue for a while. Asked if authorities could have avoided that, Ms Jayalalithaa said that the “question was “mischievous and politically motivated”.
While some believe that the chief minister’s visit would expedite rescue work, some say it actually hampered operations, further endangering lives of those still trapped.