The death toll in a building collapse in Himachal Pradesh's Solan district climbed to 13 on Monday after five more bodies were retrieved from the rubble, officials said. Twenty-eight people were injured after the four-storey building, which housed a restaurant, collapsed on the Nahan-Kumarhatti Road on Sunday evening following heavy rains, they said.
The bodies of 12 Army personnel and a civilian were extricated from the debris, the officials said. Solan Sub Divisional Magistrate Rohit Rathore said one person was still feared trapped under the debris. However, the actual number of those trapped inside would be clear only after the rescue operation ends, which was expected to be over by the evening.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who visited the spot on Monday morning, said initial investigation has found that the structure was not built up to specifications. "A magisterial inquiry has already been ordered. Strict legal action will be taken against erring persons after getting the report," he said. A first information report (FIR) was registered against the owner of the building, he added.
"There are more such buildings in the state. Owners have constructed them without following building by-laws. Whatever is required to be done, will be done to check it," he said. The chief minister said, "Rescue operation is still on. Necessary equipment was airlifted on Sunday evening itself through a helicopter from Shimla's Sunni to carry out the rescue work by the NDRF".
An injured soldier told reporters from the hospital that when the building collapsed, there were 35 Army personnel inside it, of whom 30 were Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs). He said Army personnel belonging to the 4 Assam Regiment of nearby Dagshai Cantonment went to the restaurant "to party as it was a Sunday but suddenly the building shook and collapsed in no minutes".
Another injured person Rakesh Kumar, said that about 50 people, including several Army personnel, restaurant staff and other customers were in the building when it collapsed. "We thought it was a quake and did not know how the building collapsed and we were trapped under the debris. I remained trapped for about 10-15 minutes after which some people rescued me," he added.
The Indian Army, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and police initially carried out the rescue operation. Subsequently, two National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams -- one each from Haryana's Panchkula and Shimla's Sunni -- reached the spot later in the night to carry out the rescue work, Director-cum-Special Secretary Revenue and Disaster Management, D C Rana told PTI. A third NDRF team from Panchkula joined the rescue operation on Monday morning, he added.