BOTH WOMEN were inside the safety of their homes, with loved ones, when tragedy struck. A large portion of the sixth floor collapsed all the way down to the first floor at Chintels Paradiso society’s tower ‘D’ in Gurgaon’s Sector 109, killing Ekta Bhardwaj (40) on the second floor and Sunita Srivastava (55) on the first floor, on Thursday.
“She had just entered the drawing room to answer the phone. Within seconds, it all came crashing down. It’s tragic,” said Ekta’s husband, Rajesh Bhardwaj, on the basis of whose complaint police have now filed an FIR against the Chintels MD, Ashok Solomon, under IPC Sections 304-A (causing death by negligence) and 34 (common intention).
Rajesh said that around 6.15 pm, his mother and 16-year-old son were in adjacent rooms when they heard a “loud explosion”.
“My 12-year-old daughter had gone to the park and I was at work. My son called and told me over the phone that the ceiling of some floors had collapsed through the dining area, and my wife had suffered fatal injuries. I rushed home to find that she had died,” he said.
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Sunita’s husband, Arun Srivastava, a bureaucrat posted with the Indian Railway Service of Engineers, also had a brush with death, with rescuers spending 16 hours before pulling him out alive. With the lower half of his body buried under debris, rescuers, at one point, even considered amputating a leg. But they soon put that option aside.
“His entire lower right leg, up to the knee, was caught under the debris. The only way out in that situation is to create a pocket in the debris, just like a foxhole. We first stabilised all the debris above, using shoring metal. After that, we made a foxhole to create an approach till his foot. Once we did that, we used specialised equipment called airbags to raise the debris enough to release 60-70% of the leg. For the remaining 30%, we had to use ropes, like those used for lifting or climbing, to cover his body in a harness. We used airbags to lift some more debris and pulled him out,” Kuleesh Anand, Deputy Commandant, NDRF, told The Indian Express.
Officials said Arun had returned home from the airport just 10 minutes before the incident. “He and his wife were standing in the living room, next to the kitchen, when the chunk collapsed on them,” said a police officer.
Rajesh said Ekta “would often complain about the disturbance caused by repair work during the afternoon”. Residents said repairs had been underway on the sixth floor for a while now. “There were complaints of cracks in plaster and walls, and repair work was always going on. Of course, nobody thought the entire structure would collapse,” he said.
In his police complaint, Rajesh alleged that the incident occurred due to negligent and substandard construction work.
“One can see from the nature of the collapse that there was no resistance in the structure. From the sixth floor, the slabs collapsed and had a cascading effect,” he said. “Some floors on the top were vacant as their residents had gone for a wedding. Otherwise, the casualties would have been higher.”
He said his family has moved to his brother’s house in Malviya Nagar.
Spread over 12 acres, the society has nine towers. A total of 450 flats out of 532 are occupied. In a tweet on Friday, Prashant Solomon, MD of Chintels, wrote: “Upon preliminary investigations, we have come to know that the mishap occurred during renovation work by a contractor being carried out by a resident in his apartment. We had conducted a structural audit last year when complaints first came. We will be initiating a second structural audit at the earliest. In case any defects are found in the structure, we will duly compensate affected buyers or accommodate affected residents in alternate arrangements while necessary repair work is completed. We are fully cooperating with the authorities and ensuring all support.”
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