Massive rescue operation launched at hotel collapse site

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Ahmedabad, Feb 3 (UNI) The Gujarat government launched a massive rescue operation at the site of 'Shakunt' hotel which collapsed early today killing six people, while the authorities asserted that owners of the hotel had been warned by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) two days ago and the State Bank of India branch near the hotel was closed for public yesterday.

The National Diasater Response Force was also pressed into service with sniffer dogs hunting the alive or dead persons in the rubble. One person has been rescued alive from the debris.

According to fire brigade sources, the five-story hotel caved in like a pack of cards at 0900 hrs. The injured have been admitted to Civil Hospital, V.S Hopital and Shardaben Hospital in the city.

Chief Minister Narendra Modi sent at least three of his colleagues at the site, while the state Assembly Speaker Ashok Bhatt also visited the place.

Officials said the rescue operation was continuing since morning and a clear picture would emerged only by the evening. Most of the victims were said to be the students who were in the city to appear for a railway recruitment examination today.

Municipal Commissioner I P Gautam told UNI that the hotel building was ''old'' and ruled out any sabotage in the collaspe. He said FIR had been lodged against the owner of the hotel and the builder.

Fire officials said at least six dead bodies had been taken out from the rubble and more than three dozen people were rescued and sent to three different hospitals including the city civil hospital, where state Health Minister Jaynaryan Vyas was camping and overseeing the health condition of the injured.

The five-storey hotel, Shakunt, was located opposite the Ahmedabad Railway station and according to eyewitnesses, the adjoining buildings were also partially affected following the collapse. Construction activities were also going on in the adjoining land.

The closed State Bank of India branch was also affected as a part of the collapsed building fell on the adjoining building.

Mr Modi also held a meeting of the Diaster Management group at his residence in Gandhinagar and gave directions accondingly for the rescue work.

The Chief Minister has declared Rs one lakh help for the kin of the those killed in the mishap from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund. Home Minister Amit Shah and Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner I P Gautam rushed to the spot and were supervising the relief and rescue operations.

Meanwhile, the road traffic was severely affected as the authorities had closed the approach road to the Railway Station.

UNI HT/PB PK HT1650

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