In the midst of heavy rains, on July 25th Siddhi Sai building in Ghatkopar had crashed killing 17 persons, while on August 26, a vacant building at Chandivali had collapsed claiming seven lives. Now, a six-storeyed building has collapsed in south Mumbai’s Bhendi Bazaar area claiming 16 lives and injuring 12 persons. This report is shocking for a city that is still reeling from the aftershocks of Tuesday’s inundation. Meanwhile, one more badly decomposed body was excavated from the debris of the collapsed eight-storeyed building in Chandivali on Wednesday, taking the death toll to six. Police suspect at least two more people are still trapped as they claim there is still a smell emanating from under the debris.
On Saturday, partly demolished Crystal Plaza Business Park in Chandivali came crashing down on workers. Police claimed that there were around nine people who were working when the building collapsed. Cops have registered a case against Kaushal Mukesh Builders & Developers and Spark Infrastructure under IPC sections 34 (common intention) and 304 (A) (death by negligence). “No arrests have been made yet. Let us first rescue people,” said Sakinaka, senior police inspector, Avinash Dharmadhikari.
The residential building, named Arsiwala, located near JJ Junction in Pakmodia street, collapsed around 8.30 am. Ambulances, 10 fire brigades and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams have been rushed to Arsiwala Building, which was located in a busy market area. The Chief Fire Officer and Commissioner of Police have also been mobilized. The building had 12 rooms and six godowns on the ground floor was around 100 years old. It had two wings, both of which collapsed.
When AV spoke to Madhukar Chavan, ex-MHADA president, former Congress MLA said, “The state government and BMC is responsible for the recurring building collapse incidents occurring in the city. The government usually allocates Rs 200 crore for the redevelopment of old buildings. However, this year only Rs 80 crore has been spent. Therefore the repairing work gets hampered.”
“Too much corruption is happening in the BMC pertaining to the redevelopment of old buildings. They are also responsible for the recent waterlogging incidents that happened in the city. The government must pay Rs 5 lakhs to the kin of deceased person and pay Rs 2 lakhs for injured persons. Their medical expenditure should be borne by the government,” he added.
The number of people trapped in the building’s debris is yet to be determined but initial reports suggest as many as 50 could be trapped. However, residents were requesting authorities to start digging the debris to rescue the trapped residents. The police also suspected gas leakage in the area, following which electricity was cut off in the surrounding buildings and the police could be heard appealing to people not to light any inflammatory material or use electricity that could trigger a possible fire.
Vishwanath Mahadeshwar, Mumbai Mayor said, “The building belongs to MHADA and it is more than 100 years old. A private builder was supposed to redevelop the building. This issue is concerned with MHADA and state government. The BMC is already doing its work and is involved in rescue operation work along with NDRF team and Fire brigade.”
“Despite receiving evacuation notices, tenants failed to vacate the building. The government had given all the permission to the Trust to develop the building in 2011.There was an ultimatum to demolish the building last year. The government had also provided transit camp lodging. The delay that led to the tragedy will be understood only after an inquiry” said Prakash Mehta, Maharashtra Housing Minister.
Mohamed Rehman, resident of Bhendi Bazar said, “BMC babus who facilitate illegal constructions or ignore taking action against legal but dangerous constructions due to money game and political nexus should be booked under serious crimes.”
Shiv Sena supporter Amit Badricha said“A larger point here is that Bhendi Bazaar is such a notorious area and its citizens take pride and tell that “Bhai apne Area mein to police bhi aane se pehle dass baar sochti hai ” If citizens themselves can’t change we shouldn’t completely blame government and babus.
Another shop owner of Bhendi Bazar, Ashraf Sheikh said “BMC and government in Maharashtra will not accept it’s their fault and would say its natural disaster. People are made fools first by spending so much money in doing nothing to storm water sewers (it’s a scam by itself) and now they don’t even know which buildings are old and is dangerous. What’s the exact role of government in first place? Old and dangerous buildings are routinely pulled down in all places except in our country where some or the other excuse retains them. One can witness countless such old buildings in all places waiting for disasters to happen.
The civic body had conducted a survey this which revealed that 617 structures in the city were identified as unsafe for living. Out of these 112 were vacated while 42 were referred to the technical advisory committee. In the year 2011, MHADA had declared the building unsafe and had offered transit accommodation to tenants and occupants. When the building had collapsed nine families were staying in it.