Rescue workers battle rain and cramped conditions to sift through rubble for possible survivors as many people are still missing two days after the three-storey building collapsed in a town in Mumbai's outskirts.

Police officers watch rescue operations after a three-storey building collapsed in Bhiwandi, on the outskirts of Mumbai, India on September, 21 2020.
Police officers watch rescue operations after a three-storey building collapsed in Bhiwandi, on the outskirts of Mumbai, India on September, 21 2020. (Reuters)

The death toll from an apartment block collapse in western India has jumped to 39, as hopes of finding anyone else alive dimmed.

Emergency workers from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have so far pulled 20 survivors from the rubble of the three-storey building in Bhiwandi town, near Mumbai, officials said on Wednesday.

An NDRF spokesman and local authorities told reporters that recovery teams, aided by sniffer dogs, retrieved 39 bodies buried under brick and concrete after the block came crashing down before dawn on Monday.

An official with Thane city authorities, which oversees Bhiwandi, said the dead included eight children.

There were no reliable estimates of the number of people in the 54 flats who were still missing after the three-storey residency came down just before dawn on Monday.

READ MORE: Dozens feared trapped as building due for repairs collapses in India

READ MORE: India building collapse: Death toll climbs as rescue work continues

Monsoon rains

The cause of the incident was not immediately clear, but building collapses are common during India's June-September monsoon season, with old and rickety structures buckling under days of non-stop rain.

Heavy overnight downpours in the Mumbai region forced railway authorities to reschedule or cancel trains in the city on Wednesday due to waterlogging on tracks.

Mumbai city authorities also declared Wednesday a holiday, advising residents to stay indoors after the rain caused flooding and disrupted traffic in some areas of the financial capital.

READ MORE: Survivors rescued from collapsed building in India

Source: AFP