On Thursday, 50-year-old Atul Patel got out of an auto-rickshaw opposite his shop on Gokhale Road in Thane. He just had to cross the road like every day, but he landed in a hospital instead after a tree fell on him. Patel fractured both his legs.
“We could see him from the shop when the tree fell on him. He was almost in the middle of the road,” said Prafful (55), Atul’s elder brother. The brothers run a plumbing business. “We live in Ghatkopar but our store is in Thane. Everyday, we both go to work at the store,” he said.
Amid gusty wind on Thursday, a hoarding and a tree fell in two seperate incidents in Thane. While no one was injured when a hoarding fell at the state transport bus depot near the railway station, Patel suffered head injuries and fractured both his legs in the tree fall incident.
“It it was an old tree but it was not really dangerous. We walked around it everyday,” said Gajanan Phalke, another shop owner on the street. For Patel, or his brother, the tree on the opposite side of their store was of no significance and had never been noticed before. “The authorities should check as to why the tree fell. We don’t know if it was dangerous, we never gave it any thought,” Prafful said.
Patel lives with his wife, daughter and his elder brother’s family in Ghatkopar. “The municipal authorities wanted to shift him to Kalwa hospital, but we brought him to Ghatkopar, closer to the family. He has fractured both his legs,” Prafful said. He added, “It will affect the business, but that doesn’t matter right now. It could have been worse.”
At the Thane railway station, a hoarding was dismounted, sparking fears a day after claddings on the Churchgate building facade collapsed, killing one. “Several illegal hoardings have been put up. They were even brought to the notice of TMC officials. But nothing has come out of it. The hoardings are still falling and it was sheer luck that no one was underneath it today,” said Abhay Bishnoi, a resident of Thane and who was present at the time of the incident near the station.
For the Thane Municipal Corporation that claimed that they were prepared for the monsoon, these incidents raise several questions. “Why was the tree not trimmed properly? If it was, did no one realise it could have fallen? The TMC is a 100 percent at fault here,” said Ganesh Mirjankar, an activist from Thane. In 2018, several trees had fallen in the area, leading to as many as five deaths. “Despite that, this year trees were not focused upon. They have started falling even before the monsoon,” he said.
TMC officials, however, said they have been taken to task by the commissioner. “A team of tree authority officials, fire fighters and other departments has been made to ensure that no public complaint is unheard. We are investigating both the incidents and anyone found responsible will face consequences,” a senior officer said. “We have already received more than 20 complaints about dangerous trees. We are working on solving them as soon as possible,” another officer said.