Over 10 houses collapsed in the slum area of Anna Nagar, located behind the under-construction WHO headquarters in ITO, following a night of heavy rainfall which continued until Sunday morning.
A drain, which runs between the WHO site and the JJ colony, overflowed, leading to the collapse. With minutes to spare before their one-two storey homes on the banks were swept away, families ran for their lives, leaving belongings behind. Water also entered the construction site, where a basement is being built, and flowed out onto the Ring Road. The road was then closed to traffic.
Kuku Swami, the pradhan of the JJ colony, said, “Over 10 houses have either been swept away or collapsed. At other homes, walls have collapsed or water has come inside. The pandemic has already left us jobless. Now, people have lost their homes.”
Laxmi (30), a housewife, stared at the debris that was her two-storey house. “My husband was at his friend’s place. I ran with my three sons to the temple, but the temple also started to collapse. We then rushed to the main road. My three-year-old son is unwell and I wanted to change his clothes but I have nothing left.”
Anita (35) and her husband Santosh Burra (35) were sleeping in their room and had a narrow escape. “Our bathroom, which was on the banks, broke off and got swept away, and then our room. My husband fell over and had to be pulled out by some people,” said Anita.
“All agencies, be it Delhi government or MCDs, were busy tackling corona this year. They faced many problems because of it. This is not the time to blame each other. Everyone has to fulfil their responsibilities. If there is waterlogging, we will try to pump it out immediately,” CM Arvind Kejriwal tweeted.
Teams of Delhi Police, DFS and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were at work through the day. The NDRF arrived with a 90-member team and conducted a nine-hour rescue operation.
NDRF Commandant P K Srivastava said, “Around 8.30 am, the water level in the drain suddenly increased and it carried some debris, which caused erosion along the edges of the drain. This caused one of the houses to collapse and damaged a few other houses.”
Srivastava said the rescue team carried out a search underwater, and also through the rubble with the help of canines, but did not find anyone trapped.
In Delhi, drainage comes under different agencies such as the MCDs, Public Works Department and Irrigation and Flood Control department. If smaller drains are not cleaned or desilted before monsoon, waterlogging is seen across the city.
The drain is under the jurisdiction of the South MCD. “Temporary sheds were erected on the banks of SDMC drain no. 12, being used by labourers constructing the WHO building. The work is being managed by the National Buildings Construction Corporation. The SDMC Commissioner went to the spot. We have deployed three super sucker machines and 18 tankers,” said an SDMC official.
Deputy CM Manish Sisodia said: “It is possible there are lapses at the level of some government department or municipal corporation. Instead of blaming each other, we will have to work together.”
Waterlogging at Minto Road as well as ITO has been a perennial problem. With stormwater drains, which are supposed to carry rainwater to Yamuna, choked and closed off, the problem aggravates whenever Delhi sees heavy rain. With Minto Road inundated almost every year, the PWD has permanently installed a pump at the location. The sewage system is not supposed to carry rainwater but has been used to drain the excess time and again.
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