Fifteen people, including four children and three women, were killed when the wall of a housing society collapsed on some makeshift tin sheds, which housed labourers working at a construction site nearby, in Kondhwa area of Pune on Saturday.
Three others were injured in the incident. The victims, all construction workers and their relatives, were sleeping when the wall of the Alcon Stylus housing society, near Talab Park on the outskirts of the city, collapsed at about 1.30 am, said officials.
According to Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) officials, it appeared that the compound wall, about 150 feet in length, was not strong enough and had been further weakened due to construction work at the neighbouring site. The rainfall may have worsened the situation — Pune received 73.1 millimetres of rain on Friday, the second highest rainfall in June since 2010.
“The victims are from Bihar… Their bodies will be sent by flight to Patna, from where they will be sent to their homes,” said Pune District Collector Naval Kishore Ram.
Rescue operation being carried out by a team of NDRF, Pune Fire Deparment, Pune Municipal Corporation and with the help of some locals.#KondhwaWallCollapse
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The victims have been identified as Alok Sharma (28), Mohan Sharma (24), Ravi Sharma (19), Aman Sharma (19), Laxmikant Sahani (22), Sunil Singh (35), Ovi Das (2), Sonali Das (6), Bhima Das (38), Sangeeta Devi (26), Ajitkumar Sharma (7), Rekhalkumar Sharma (5), Neeva Devi (30), Deepranjan Sharma (30) and Avadesh Singh (34).
“The fire brigade got a call at about 1.50 am. When we reached the spot, there was heavy rainfall and complete darkness. Our personnel heard a man crying for help and found that he was clinging to a tree. We first saved him and then called for additional help — five fire brigade vehicles, three mini-vehicles, two ambulances and two JCB earth-movers for removing the debris,” said Prakash Gore, Fire Officer, Kondhwa.
While the Alcon Stylus housing society was developed by Alcon Landmark Group, owned by Jagdish Prasad Agarwal, the construction site where the labourers worked was being developed by SVG Kanchan Group as a housing project, owned by Pankaj Vhora, Suresh Shah and Rashmikant Gandhi.
A criminal case has been registered against the builders, site engineers, supervisors and labour contractors of both the companies. They have been booked under Section 304 of the Indian Penal Code (culpable homicide not amounting to murder). The FIR names Jadgish Prasad Agarwal, Sachin Agarwal, Rajesh Agarwal, Vivek Agarwal and Sunil Agarwal (all partners in Alcon Landmark Group) and Pankaj Vhora, Suresh Shah, Rashmikant Gandhi of the SVG Kanchan Group.
PMC Commissioner Saurabh Rao said prima facie, it appeared that there was negligence on the part of the builders.
State Irrigation Minister Vijay Shivtare said the wall had been constructed in 2012. “From what I have seen, I can say that what was going on was completely wrong,” he said.
Residents of the Alcon Stylus housing society said the builder had ignored their warning about the wall being weakened due to the construction work at the neighbouring site. “We had informed the builder about the hazards of the weakened wall and expressed fears that a major catastrophe was waiting to happen,” said Abdulla Parker, a resident.
Meanwhile, State Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil, who is also the Guardian Minister for Pune District, said the victims’ families would get a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each. Those who were injured will be given Rs 25,000 each, he said.
“A committee comprising an additional collector, a senior PMC officer, the local Deputy Commissioner of Police, and an expert from the College of Engineering, Pune, has been set up to probe the incident. They have been asked to submit a primary report within 24 hours. Based on the report, further legal action will be taken,” said Patil.
At least four vehicles and a two-wheeler parked near the wall were also damaged.
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