A day after it was evacuated, a five-storey residential building in Ulhasnagar collapsed on Tuesday. While nobody was injured, the incident has left residents in the area, home to as many as 250 “dangerous” buildings, anxious. Many have accused the civic authorities of gross negligence for the deplorable condition of the buildings.
Mahak Apartments in camp 3 area in Ulhasnagar collapsed around 10 am, fire brigade officials said. “We reached the spot and evacuated nearby buildings where debris had blocked exits. The residents of this building were evacuated yesterday (Monday) after it tilted a little from the top and developed some cracks on certain walls. Residents had also complained of doors getting jammed,” an officer from fire brigade told The Indian Express.
Sarita Makhija, a resident of one of the nearby buildings that was evacuated Tuesday, said, “Mahak Apartments started tilting yesterday. This morning, we heard a loud noise and then debris came in through our window. We are worried that our building may also collapse.”
Makhija’s fear may not be misplaced. According to Municipal Commissioner Sudhakar Deshmukh, the region has over 250 dangerous buildings. “These are old buildings or buildings that are not structurally sound. We have served notices to the residents and have asked everyone to get structural audits done,” he said.
Most of these buildings, however, are still occupied as residents refuse to vacate. “We have cut water and electricity supplies, but it doesn’t work. People are risking their lives staying in such dangerous houses,” Deshmukh said.
According to activists in the area, residents refuse to leave their houses fearing eviction. “Most buildings here are illegal. People worry that if they leave, they will not have anywhere to go. If water and electricity are cut, they access it illegally,” said Ajay Singh, an activist from the area.
“We are dealing with 95 per cent illegal buildings that are built with substandard raw materials,” Deshmukh said. He claimed that the municipal authorities have kept an eye on dilapidated buildings. “Some buildings show signs of collapse. We ensure that people are evacuated as soon as we spot these signs. That’s all we can do at this point,” he added.
However, residents believe that it is the gross negligence of municipal authorities that has escalated the problem. “No one wants to live in dangerous buildings when they know that the roof can come crashing any time. But we don’t have alternatives. We can stay only for a few days at relatives’ houses,” said Jayant Kathani, a resident of one of the buildings in camp 3 which has also been served notice. He added, “Why were the buildings allowed in the first place? We are the victims as we were cheated by the builders and have nowhere to go now.”