A two-story building housing a garment factory collapsed early Thursday morning in Bhiwandi, approximately 50 kilometers from Mumbai. So far, seven textile workers have been reported dead, 24 injured, and 36 rescued. An official from the Narpoli Police Station, charged with coordinating rescue efforts involving the National Disaster Response Force and the fire brigade, reported that eight workers remain trapped inside.
The incident occurred around 1 am in the Shree Arihant complex, a building constructed only 18 months ago. At the time of the collapse, the building was under construction for the purpose of adding a new floor. So far, all of the workers involved are employed by a company called Big Garment. Big Garment has not yet released a statement regarding the disaster.
While the cause of the collapse has not yet been officially determined, Police Inspector Ramesh Patil speculated that heavy monsoon rains might have been a contributing factor. Others, however, have advanced theories that human error is to blame.
Santosh Kadam, head of the Disaster Management Cell of Thane Municipal Corporation, claimed, “The third floor was being built illegally. This might have been the reason for the building collapse.”
According to Satyapal Singh, the Mumbai Police Commissioner, the building was in violation of numerous codes and the construction was unauthorized. The police are investigating the collapse for potentially serious violations of the Indian Penal Code: section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), section 336 (acts endangering the life or personal safety of others), and section 337 (acts causing harm through negligence).
The Arihant complex is the home to dozens of similar buildings including the warehouses of pharmaceutical companies like Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Ltd., which was unaffected by the collapse. Bhiwandi, located in the western state of Maharashstra, is well-populated by garment factories.
Building safety in South Asia has come under intense international scrutiny since the collapse of a factory in Bangladesh last April, which resulted in the death of over 1,100 people. Also in April, a seven-story apartment building in Mumbai collapsed killing 74, including 18 children. Last June, 10 people died when a five-story residential building fell under the weight of heavy rain.