A 17-year-old boy died and 15 others were injured after a retaining wall along the Tansa pipeline at the Shastri Nagar Colony in Mulund west collapsed on five hutments at around 12:30 am on Saturday.
While the collapse was possibly due to the onslaught of heavy rains since Friday night, victims and other residents alleged that the civic body’s negligence caused the collapse and alleged that they did not receive adequate help from the fire brigade.
Those injured were rushed to MT Agarwal Hospital in the vicinity where 17-year-old Prashant Santosh Jadhav was pronounced dead on arrival. Among the injured, 12 people with minor injuries were discharged while three others are still admitted at the hospital. The incident took place at the New Rahul Nagar in Shastri Nagar Colony, a hilly area near the Sanjay Gandhi National Park — which comes under the Forest Department. More than 400 hutments lie along the slope of the Shankar Tekdi in the area.
According to residents of the locality, four hutments were completely destroyed and two others were damaged in the incident. The fire brigade reached the spot at around 2 am. The furious residents blamed the civic body and held the local corporator from BJP, Samita Kamble, responsible for the mishap.
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One of the residents, Raj Sable, said, “The base of the protection wall was in a dilapidated condition. We had approached Kamble to ask for help to repair the wall. But she didn’t even turn up to check it out.” He added that on Saturday, as the wall collapsed, a huge boulder behind the wall rolled over and fell on Jadhav’s hut.
When contacted, Kamble, who had spearheaded the initiative of making Surya Namaskar mandatory in civic schools last month, maintained the residents had not asked for her help. “They had come to me to ask for help with cleaning of drains and constructing toilets. Besides, I couldn’t have spent the funds to repair the wall since it falls in the forest area,” she said.
Residents stated that a tree below the wall prevented further damage. “The tree saved us and stopped the debris from rolling down on other hutments. Otherwise, more hutments would have been damaged and possibly more people could have been injured,” said Sable. The residents rued that no one from the administration came to the spot to help them remove the debris. “The fire brigade arrived an hour and a half after the wall collapsed after which they just chopped the tree and left. They did not help us clear the debris or no ambulance came to take the injured people to the hospital,” said Sable.
Denying all allegations, P Rahangdale, chief fire officer, stated that the firemen had carried out evacuation procedure and had taken the injured people to the hospital. Santosh Jadhav, the father of the deceased, claimed he had to carry his son on a motorbike to the hospital. “My son was stuck under the cupboard. No one from the civic administration helped us. With the help of our neighbours, we were able to roll off the big boulder and pull him from under the debris. There was no ambulance available so we had to carry Prashant’s body on a motorbike,” he said.
Jadhav, who is a painter by profession, stated his son had taken up a job as an office boy just six months ago since he had wanted to help the family financially. Weeping inconsolably, he said, “Seven of us were living in one hutment. Like any other day, we all went to bed early. But last night, it was pouring and at around 12:30 am, I heard the sound of thunder. Minutes later, the walls of my house started collapsing around us. Now I have lost my house and my son all in a matter of a few moments.”
Those who survived fortunately sustained minor injuries. Forty-year-old Kiran Raju Varandani, whose house was also destroyed, said, “We have all suffered a few injuries but my 12-year old boy has sustained head injuries and is still admitted in the hospital.” While the land comes within the jurisdiction of the Forest Department, officials of T ward stated the wall was reportedly constructed to protect the Tansa pipeline located near the settlement. While the residents claimed that the wall was more than 50 years old, officials from the forest department and the civic body stated that they were unaware of the age of the wall.
Prashant Sapkale, assistant municipal commissioner of T ward, said the wall belonged to the hydraulic engineering department and that the forest department is responsible for the rehabilitation of the residents. The assistant conservator of forest, D J Singh, said, “The rubble-masonry wall which collapsed belongs to the BMC. However, the land comes within our jurisdiction. As per the orders of the Bombay High Court, we are in the process of giving the eligible encroachers alternate accommodation in Chandivli.” He added that the accommodations are being allotted based on availability and once handed over, the hutments will be demolished to ensure they do not return.
A case of accidental death has been registered at Mulund police station. “The slum colony is illegal and the wall was built in a prohibited area. We have begun our inquiry into the incident,” said Rajaram Vhanmane, senior inspector, Mulund police station.