Mumbai building collapse search ends, toll touches 72

Updated 07 April 2013
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Mumbai building collapse search ends, toll touches 72

MUMBAI: Authorities yesterday abandoned a search for more survivors from the collapse of a seven-story building on Mumbai’s outskirts that killed 72 people, saying there was no hope of finding anybody else alive.
The cave-in of the partly finished building highlighted widespread shoddy building standards in the country where there is huge demand for housing and pervasive corruption often means cost-cutting and no inspections.
“The rescue work is now over since there is no hope of finding any more survivors,” Sandeep Malvi, Thane municipal corporation spokesman, said.
“The death toll is now 72. About 36 are injured and undergoing treatment. At least 126 people have been rescued,” he added.
Most of the victims were poor daily wage earners working at the site and their families, who were living with them. The dead included 17 children and 22 women, a local government statement said.
The building collapse late on Thursday was the deadliest since 2010 when 69 people were killed in New Delhi in a similar incident.
A 65-year-old woman was pulled from the rubble late Friday after being trapped for almost 30 hours and was in stable condition in hospital, police said.
Police have arrested the two builders responsible for construction of the structure who had fled after the disaster and filed accusations of culpable homicide against them, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency said.
The building’s floors collapsed directly on top of each other like a pack of cards — a phenomenon known as a “pancake collapse” — making rescue work even tougher, said Alok Awasthi, commandant of the National Disaster Response Force.
“We are reasonably sure there is nobody there,” Awasthi said after calling off the search.
Rescue workers used sledgehammers, chainsaws, hydraulic jacks and bulldozers to break through the mass of rubble in Thane district, 35 km from central Mumbai.
“We had to proceed very slowly as any mis-step would have pushed up the death toll,” Awasthi said, according to PTI.
The Maharashtra state government has announced a probe into the incident and suspended a top civic administrator and a police officer for dereliction of duty.
Building collapses are a common occurrence in India, where a fast-expanding economy and rising real estate prices have led to a mushrooming of multi-story structures on the outskirts of cities and towns.
Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said late Friday that Thane alone had 57 “very dangerous” buildings and 1,159 “dangerous buildings” that were illegal and in which nearly 88,000 people lived.
“Thousands of illegal buildings have come up in Mumbai but none have been demolished. They have come up without permission. It’s being done without taking structural precautions,” Mumbai lawyer and activist Yogesh Pratap Singh said.
“The time has come to make municipal officer accountable along with the builders,” Singh told India’s NDTV news channel.


Taiwan’s Tsai urges world to stand up to China

Updated 25 June 2018
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Taiwan’s Tsai urges world to stand up to China

  • Tsai Ing-wen urged other nations to unite with Taiwan in defending against China’s expansionist aims and to protect shared liberal values
  • Against Beijing’s growing global influence, the island’s desire to promote its status internationally as a beacon of democracy in Asia remains an uphill struggle

TAIPEI: Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen called on the international community to “constrain” China by standing up for freedoms, casting her island’s giant neighbor as a global threat to democracy.
Her comments in an exclusive interview with AFP on Monday come as Taiwan faces what Tsai called “immense pressure” from Beijing.
She urged other nations to unite with Taiwan in defending against China’s expansionist aims and to protect shared liberal values.
“This is not just Taiwan’s challenge, it is a challenge for the region and the world as a whole, because today it’s Taiwan, but tomorrow it may be any other country that will have to face the expansion of China’s influence,” Tsai said.
“Their democracy, freedom, and freedom to do business will one day be affected by China,” Tsai added.
“We need to work together to reaffirm our values of democracy and freedom in order to constrain China and also minimize the expansion of their hegemonic influence.”
Her comments come after a sustained period of aggression from China toward Taiwan, which Beijing believes is part of mainland territory, to be reunified by force if necessary.
Self-ruling Taiwan is a democracy and sees itself as a sovereign country, although it has never formally declared independence from the mainland.
An increasingly hardline President Xi Jinping has made it clear that what he sees as threats to China’s territorial integrity will not be tolerated.
China is deeply suspicious of Tsai as her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is traditionally pro-independence.
Since she took office in 2016, Beijing has ramped up military drills near the island and has successfully pressured some major international companies to list Taiwan as part of China on their websites.
It has also exerted diplomatic pressure by ensuring Taiwan is excluded from major international forums and wooing away some of its few remaining official allies.
Tsai said China should “be aware of their own responsibility” in the region and “engage in conversation with Taiwan.”
Countries both around the region and further afield have expressed concern over China building military facilities on remote islands in the South China Sea.
Beijing has also been seeking to extend its power with its globe-spanning Belt and Road infrastructure project, which aims to connect the world’s second-largest economy with Africa, Asia and Europe through a vast network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks.
But despite escalating tensions, Tsai said she would still “be willing” to meet with China’s President Xi Jinping.
“Of course, I hope that during my term as president, there is a chance for both sides to sit down and talk,” Tsai said.
She added she would meet Xi on an equal footing and with no political pre-conditions, a position she has long taken.
However, Beijing insists Tsai must agree that Taiwan is part of “one China” in order for any meeting to take place, which she has refused to do.
Tsai said the recent summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had “provided a lot to think about.”
“Their two countries are very far apart in terms of cultural values and other aspects, as well as the positions they hold,” said Tsai.
“But they were able to sit down and talk on the basis of reciprocity and mutual respect in Singapore. I think this was a positive development for the international community.
“It is also an encouragement for countries that are at odds with one another.”
With its number of official allies dwindling to 18 as Beijing lures them away, Taiwan is now trying to forge new friendships.
Its most powerful ally is the United States, which is its major arms supplier even though it does not have formal diplomatic relations with the island.
Tsai said Taiwan had seen growing support from the United States, where Congress recently passed bills paving the way for higher level official visits, and recommending greater US-Taiwan military exchanges. The US State Department also approved a preliminary license for sensitive submarine technology, riling Beijing.
The warming relationship comes as Taiwan tries to boost its homegrown defense force.
“In the face of China’s threats, we feel the need for us to improve self-defense capabilities,” she said.
Tsai said Taiwan is looking to bolster ties with “like-minded” countries.
But against Beijing’s growing global influence, the island’s desire to promote its status internationally as a beacon of democracy in Asia remains an uphill struggle.
“Of course, there are times when we feel frustrated, but the Taiwanese people do not have the option of giving up,” she said.