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Mumbai mayor: Decorator responsible for building collapse, killing 61

By Lonzo Cook, Holly Yan and Sumnima Udas, CNN
updated 4:28 AM EDT, Mon September 30, 2013
A rescue worker rests at the site of a collapsed building in Mumbai, India, on Saturday, September 28. The five-story building collapsed Friday, September 27, killing 66. Authorities believe a central wall and support beams were removed without permission, causing the collapse. A rescue worker rests at the site of a collapsed building in Mumbai, India, on Saturday, September 28. The five-story building collapsed Friday, September 27, killing 66. Authorities believe a central wall and support beams were removed without permission, causing the collapse.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Seven local officials have been suspended following the collapse
  • Mayor: A decorator illegally removed a wall and beams in the building
  • The decorator, who owned a business on the ground floor, has been arrested
  • 61 people were killed; 33 people have been pulled out alive from the wreckage

New Delhi, India (CNN) -- Authorities say they now know what may have caused a five-story building in Mumbai to collapse last week: a decorator who removed a central wall and supporting beams without permission.

By Sunday, the death toll from Friday's collapse stood at 61. Fearing they may have pulled out the last of the survivors, officials ended their rescue operation.

Ashok Kumar Mehta, owner of Mamamiya Decorators, was charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder -- a charge equal to unlawful negligent killing, polIce said.

Mehta's business was on the ground floor of the crumbled building.

Five-story building collapses in Mumbai

Mumbai Mayor Sunil Prabhu said Mehta removed a central wall and supporting beams in the residential building, which is owned by Mumbai's city council. The building houses clerical employees of the municipal council and their families.

The council conducted a structural survey last November and determined the building was in bad condition and in urgent need of repair, the mayor said.

The city government approved funds for the repairs in April, but the money had not been spent.

Residents of the building were asked twice -- in November and April -- to vacate, Prabhu said.

The municipal council said Monday it has suspended seven officials over concerns they failed to act against the alterations to the building. An inquiry into the case will also investigate 11 other municipal officials, said Vijay Khabale Patil, a spokesman for the council.

The building in India's financial hub gave way around 6 a.m. Friday.

Thirty-three people were pulled out alive, said Sachidanand Gawde of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).

Not the first time

Several other buildings in the Mumbai area have crumbled this year, one of them with disastrous consequences.

In April, scores of people were killed in the collapse of an illegal multistory building in Thane, a city in the Mumbai region.

Deadly collapses have occurred in the city in past years as well.

Housing rights groups say many old buildings in the city are rundown and neglected, while newer ones are often built using substandard materials and have structural problems.

People live in them because they don't have a choice. In Mumbai, demand for housing far exceeds supply. About 65% of the population is estimated to live in slums, the groups say.

CNN's Lonzo Cook and Sumnima Udas reported from New Delhi; Holly Yan wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Dharmesh Thakkar in Mumbai and journalist Neha Sharma in New Delhi also contributed to this report.

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