Pakistani volunteer moves the body of a victim from the rubble of a collapsed five-storey residential building in Karachi on Thursday. Photo: AFP

KARACHI: Pakistani rescuers using their bare hands searched Friday for seven people missing after an apartment building collapsed, as more bodies were pulled from the rubble, taking the death toll to 16.

Soldiers have been deployed to help in the search efforts after a five-storey building and two adjoining houses collapsed in the port city of Karachi.

The residential building had been constructed as a four-storey complex, but another floor was added about a year ago, in violation of construction rules, officials said earlier.

A building inspector said the sewage system appeared to have triggered the disaster, but a full technical investigation would be carried out.

“The death toll in the building collapse rose to 16, after five more bodies were pulled out of the rubble today,” Salma Kauser, a senior health official in Karachi, told AFP.

An official at the Abbasi Shaheed hospital confirmed the toll.

Rehan Hashmi, a senior municipal official, said the army had been deployed to help with the rescue and recovery mission.

“Seven people are still missing, but it is premature to say whether they were trapped under the debris or not,” Hashmi said.

Narrow alleyways have restricted the access of heavy machinery to the disaster site, meaning much of the rubble is being cleared manually.

Authorities have sealed off the area, with soldiers standing guard and blocking curious onlookers in the city’s central district.

Roof and building collapses are common across Pakistan mainly because of poor safety standards and shoddy construction materials in the South Asian country of 200 million. – AFP