Video Still via BBC

Six people have been killed, and dozens are feared trapped or dead due to a building collapse early Friday morning in Mumbai, India. The reportedly overcrowded five-story building is the fifth structure to collapse in the region this year, as a dilapidated housing stock coupled with rapid expansion and poor construction standards leaves the city prone to disaster.

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The building collapsed suddenly at 6am today with an unknown number of inhabitants inside. While there are believed to be 22 to 24 one-room apartments within the structure, each apartment contains “four to eight residents,” one of the building’s occupants told the New York Times. Many estimates as to how many may be trapped under the debris stand at between 80 and 90.

Speaking to CNN, Sachidanand Gawde, deputy commandant at the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) described the disaster as a “pancake collapse,” referring to the manner in which the building dramatically crumbled. Occupied largely by trash collectors and other city employees, the 30-year old building is believe to be owned by the municipality. Municipality spokesman Vijay Khabale Patil explained to the BBC that “[w]e had issued a notice to them in April to vacate the building, but they did not act,” but did not explain the reason behind the notice.

Overcrowding of substandard structures is not uncommon in Mumbai, where an estimated 65% of the population live in slums and housing demand far outstrips supply. As older structures are poorly maintained, new buildings are all too often poorly constructed. High land prices, cheap labor and rampant corruption encourage developers to cut corners.

By way of example, The New York Times describes that “India is one of the only countries in the world where buildings as tall as six stories are constructed using a small-batch process of mixing concrete by hand, rather than having trucks deliver premixed concrete.” Such practices occur both because it is allowed by law, and because workers are willing to haul the material up multiple flights of stairs. However, these practices and others like it increase the likelihood of structural weaknesses and the creation of dangerous buildings.

Between April and June of this year, over 100 people were killed in building collapses in Mumbai, while between 2008 and 2012 there were 100 building collapses.

Via USA Today

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