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NOIDA: Thousands of people were ordered to vacate their apartments on the outskirts of India’s capital New Delhi for about 10 hours on Sunday, before the demolition of two illegally constructed skyscrapers.

Scores of police and emergency personnel were deployed for the operation, expected to take nine to 15 seconds, on the 103-metre (338-feet) tall towers, which have 850 unoccupied apartments.

Traffic was diverted around the Apex and Ceyane towers on the edge of a busy highway linking India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, to the capital.

The Supreme Court last year ordered the demolition of the towers in the Noida area after a long legal battle found they violated multiple building regulations and fire safety norms. Over 3,700 kg (8,100 pounds) of explosives are to be used around 2:30 p.m. (0900 GMT) to raze the apartment blocks through controlled demolition, officials told local news channels.

The buildings are meant to collapse after strategically placed explosives are detonated, ensuring minimal damage to the residential area.

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Still, several families moved to safety on Saturday, fearing heightened pollution and health hazards from the massive debris. Sudeep Roy, owner of a four-room apartment in a nearby low-rise building, said he booked hotel rooms last week to spend the night with family and friends.

“It is best to stay away from the blast site for 24 hours because the air will get toxic and we don’t know how it can impact our health,” said Roy, a mechanical engineer and father of twin boys, one of whom suffers from asthma.

The blast will leave over 80,000 tonnes of rubble, most to be used to fill the site and the rest to be recycled.

Some buildings in the vicinity were covered in white plastic sheets to protect them from debris flying after the demolition.

Residents said they feared damage to their properties from the force of the blasts, a rare occurrence in India despite rampant illegal constructions.

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