When the four-storey building in Kurla East collapsed partially on Monday night, two flats on each floor remained intact while the other two flats on the same floor collapsed, leading to the deaths of at least 19 people and injuring 13. The two flats on each side were divided by a staircase, which collapsed as well, leaving the survivors stranded.
One of those who survived was Satish Kshetre (27), a driver who was staying on the third floor of the building for the last five years. At the time of the collapse, Kshetre was watching a movie with 10 family members, including five guests, his mother, brother, brother-in-law and two children, five-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son.
“It felt like an earthquake. Then I saw outside my door and two rooms in the front, along with half the building, collapsed in front of my eyes. I panicked and told my family we were all going to die. But then the noise stopped. I told my family to stay calm. I went to the door and saw the debris. I called for help and the other residents, who were shouting from the other side, came to our door. They helped us. We all jumped on the debris of the collapsed structure, which would have been about eight to 10 feet high,” said Kshetre.
He said the building chairman had asked all of them to vacate the structure by June 30. “We had also found a new place on rent and were in the process of moving out. We own a property in a slum, which is stuck in SRA for 10 years, so we have no alternative,” said Kshetre.
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Not many families in the building were as lucky as the Kshetres. All three members of the Gaikwad family – Prahlad (62), his wife Leelabai (58) and their son Ajinkya (36), who lived on the first floor of the building — died. Ajinkya is survived by two sisters, his wife and minor son, who lived separately.
Ajinkya’s cousin Nitin Kharat, who was seen consoling his two sisters at Rajawadi Hospital, said, “They wanted to buy their own house and were desperately looking for one.”
When the two sisters saw the bodies of their parents and brother, they burst into tears.
Among those waiting at the hospital for the bodies was 35-year-old Sanjay Majhi, a carpenter from Bihar who was pulled out of the rubble on Monday night. He was hopeful that his three brothers, who lived with him, would be rescued too.
Majhi’s anxious wait at the hospital ended in despair when, on Tuesday afternoon, his brothers’ bodies were among the five pulled out of the rubble and brought to the hospital.
On the night of the collapse, Majhi was sleeping alongside his three brothers and six co-workers on the second floor of the ill-fated building. They heard a rumbling, minutes before they went crashing down, as the floor caved in and the ceiling collapsed on them.
Of the 10 men sleeping in the room, seven died and only four, including Majhi, survived the collapse.
“I fell down in one corner of the debris and survived in a small gap between two fallen walls. Luckily, I did not fall under the debris. I heard fire brigade personnel shouting out, asking if anyone was stuck. I shouted back for help… they broke the wall and pulled three of us out. Due to the impact, one of us was thrown out of the room. The remaining three suffered fractures on their leg and head. I was the only one who survived without any injury.”
Majhi, who hails from Chapra in Bihar, lost his three younger brothers, Papu (28), Rahul (24) and Birju (21) in the collapse. The brothers had been staying in the building for three months although Majhi has been working in Mumbai for two decades. His two brothers were unmarried while Papu was married. His wife, back home in Bihar, is pregnant.
“My parents are in shock. I am told they were rushed to the hospital after I told them about the deaths,” said Majhi.
Majhi was among the 36 labourers, mostly contractors, who were staying in the building. Twelve of them, who stayed on the second and third floor, died in the collapse. Incidentally, 20 labourers who lived in two rooms on the fourth floor survived the collapse, even as the two rooms on the other side of the building collapsed.
Another survivor, Govind Bharti (32) from Uttar Pradesh, kept blaming himself for the death of his younger brother, Arvind, whom he had brought to Mumbai for work.
When the building started collapsing, Bharti immediately rushed out of the fourth floor and managed to save himself. Arvind, who lived on a separate floor in the same building, was crushed under the rubble.
Bharti and other labourers told The Indian Express that they had warned their contractors that the dilapidated building may collapse, and asked him to find them another accommodation for them, but they were told that they would be shifted only after June 30.
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