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.


Malaysians celebrate government decision to shun UN treaty

Updated 09 December 2018
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Malaysians celebrate government decision to shun UN treaty

  • Among members of the anti-ICERD rally crowd were former Prime Minister Najib Razak and United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) President Zahid Hamidi
  • Mahathir Muhamad-led administration abandoned the ratification of ICERD amid pressure from former ruling party UMNO and its ally, Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS)

KUALA LUMPUR: Thousands of people, mostly clad in white, took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur on Saturday to thank the Malaysian government for not ratifying the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD).
Last month, the former ruling party, United Malays National Organization (UMNO), and its alliance, Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS), put pressure on the newly-minted Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, led by Mahathir Mohamad, to abandon the United Nations treaty.
“It has been a relatively peaceful event and no incidents have been reported,” Oh Ei Sun, principal adviser of the Pacific Research Center, told Arab News, adding that he was in Kuala Lumpur observing the rally, which was attended by mostly ethnic Malays.
He also said that many showed up at the rally out of fear, while “many Malays fear the ICERD ratification will erode their special rights and privileges.”
While Malaysian police estimates about 55,000 attended the rally, other media sources said as many as 100,000 people showed up. Former Prime Minister Najib Razak and UMNO President Zahid Hamidi also showed up for the event.
Despite winning the general elections in May, the PH government only secured 25 to 30 percent of the ethnic Malay votes.
The rise of globalization and the cost of living had impacted ethnic Malays who relied heavily on government subsidies and welfare, such as the cash-out scheme, instated by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government.
“Few policy decisions taken by the PH government thus far have instilled Malaysians with a sense of hope for the future,” Ahmed Kamal Nava, founder of social media data analytics company Politweet, told Arab News.
Many of the rally observers had even brought their families. The PAS had used volunteers to keep track of security and logistics and demonstrators were seen picking up their own rubbish.
Nava told Arab News that Twitter discussions on the issue were predominantly against the UN treaty.
“The pro-ICERD crowd within Pakatan was doing almost nothing to promote it,” he said. He criticized the PH government for not reaching out and promoting ICERD at the grass roots level.
“I think this is indicative of the demographic segment that the PAS appeals to since clearly, PAS supporters don’t have a strong presence on social media,” he said.
“Malays are going to be talking about ICERD again after this rally and they are going to come across more anti-ICERD propaganda because the government did not do a good job promoting the treaty and addressing the core issues that led to the anti-convention sentiment in the first place.”