Even as the Vakola building collapse was a disaster waiting to happen, the sole family which lived in the building had received several notices from the BMC since 2007 to vacate their flat. The seven-storey residential building collapsed in Vakola, Santacruz, on Friday.
The 31-year-old building, Shankarlok, had been served a notice in 2007 by the BMC. While 24 other families had vacated the building that comprised 28 flats, Shinda Sreedharan (45), Sudha Sridharan (32) and Satyam Sreedharan (39) had refused to vacate it, despite repeated BMC notices identifying the building as dilapidated and dangerous.
Shinda, a high court lawyer, had obtained a stay order on the various notices served to the building. Shinda resided on the ground floor, along with her younger sister and brother. Neighbours said the three had been living in the building for over 30 years.
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While Shinda was away at work when the building collapsed, her sister and brother were trapped in the debris for hours before they could be pulled out. Fire officials said while her sister was dead when she was pulled out, her brother was rescued.
“She has caused the death of so many people of our chawl. We often saw her argue and shout at BMC officials when they came to request her to vacate the place,” said Nancie Desilva, a resident of Catherine Chawl, on which the building came crashing down.
Assistant Municipal Commissioner Ajit Ambi said the family had refused to vacate the house, claiming that the building was not dilapidated and the BMC was scheming against the family.
“The siblings had been fighting against the BMC for years, claiming that the structure was in perfect condition. During the last hearing, the high court warned the family that it would have to take a stringent stand if the family did not vacate . The family were given time until the next hearing. Although all other families had vacated the building, we had made arrangements to keep the building intact over the past few weeks,” said Ambi.
Sanjay Potnis, former corporator of the area, said he had known the family for 40 years. “We had warned Shinda that due to her rigidness, the families residing in the nearby chawls were at a risk, but she stuck to her decision,” said Potnis.
Civic officials said Shinda was provided police protection as she had complained that a few residents were trying to assault her.