Heavy rains wreaked havoc across Maharashtra Sunday. While minor rain-related incidents were reported from across the state, a major tragedy unfolded in Bhiwandi near Mumbai where eight persons were reported killed and 23 others were injured in a building collapse.
A dilapidated three-storey (ground plus two) building — Kabir Seth Chawl in Shantinagar locality — collapsed around 9 am Sunday. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region had been witnessing incessant rainfall since Saturday evening.
Most members of the ten families who resided in the building were trapped under the debris. While the rescue team managed to pull out 23 people, eight lives were lost. At the time of filing this copy, the rescue operation was still on. Officials said the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was helping the local authorities in the operation.
Officials with the Bhiwandi Nizampur Municipal Corporation (BNMC) may have a tough time explaining the tragedy. It has now emerged that they were well aware about the “rickety nature” of the building and had even planned a demolition drive, which was postponed. “The building was supposed to be demolished on June 2, 2016. The plan was deferred after the civic body cited lack of manpower to carry out the demolition work,” said R D Shinde, senior inspector at Shanti Nagar police station. He added, “Even in the past, we have faced instances when civic authorities have cited this reason to stay demolition of dilapidated buildings.”
Shinde said the civic body had scheduled August 2 as the date for demolition of the buildings. “After the civic authorities informed us, we had even assigned staff for the bandobast arrangement,” he said.
Locals claimed that the tenanted building was constructed four decades ago, and was the oldest one to come up in the locality. The original owner, one Kabir Shaikh, passed away ten years ago following which the ownership of the property was transferred to his two sons Nihal and Zubair who reside in the adjoining building.
As details emerged, it became clear that officials and the occupants were aware of the imminent danger to the building but did little about it. When contacted, civic authorities defended their side claiming that the “property had been served several notices over the last couple of years after being declared unfit to live in”.
E Ravindran, who is currently holding the charge of the civic chief of BNMC, said, “Several notices were served to the owners and the buildings tenants asking them to vacate the structure. But some of them refused to move out.” Police officials confirmed that while 22 families originally resided on the property, 12 families had shifted out after the eviction notices were served on them. “It appears that a dispute between the owners and the tenants had led to the delays in evacuation,” Ravindran said.
The role of civic officials is, however, already under the scanner. BJP’s local MP Kapil Patil said Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis have sought a detailed report on the collapse from the Thane district collector. The CM has also reportedly assured that the state will bear the medical expenses to be incurred on the treatment of victims.
Rescuers said the 23 injured had been rushed to the Indira Gandhi hospital in Bhiwandi. Later, three were shifted to the civic hospital in Thane.
Thane’s Guardian Minister Eknath Shinde convened an urgent meeting with the district authorities, the municipal authorities and elected representatives, where he reportedly directed officials to evolve an action plan to vacate all dilapidated buildings in the locality. In Bhiwandi alone, there are 17 such rickety structures, according to civic officials. “We will get cracking from tomorrow. We have formed five different teams for convincing those occupying these buildings to vacate. We will take forcible eviction action for pulling down the structure if they do not cooperate,” Ravindran added.
“We have also issued a circular for a detailed panchnama of tenants of all buildings tagged dangerous. It will be maintained as a record by the city town planning department. So, whenever there is a redevelopment proposal of the dilapidated buildings, we will see that these tenants are rehabilitated,” said Ravindran.
Meanwhile, there were complaints regarding delay in the rescue operation. Rescuers confirmed that the operation was hit due to the narrowness of the approach roads. The NDRF team’s arrival was also delayed due to diversion of traffic on account of waterlogging in Thane.
Several instances of waterlogging, uprooted trees, and rail disruptions were noticed throughout Sunday across the MMR. Thane witnessed a high 192 mm rainfall in a matter of a few hours. Since this also coincided with the high tide timings, there was immense waterlogging on roads in the satellite town.
In Mumbai, the eastern suburbs witnessed 75 mm rainfall between 8 am and 4 pm, whereas the western suburbs recorded 64 mm. The island city was comparatively dry, recording just 15 mm rainfall. Rainwater was reported to have accumulated at 126 different sites across Mumbai, and necessitated operationalisation of de-watering pumps. The Mumbai disaster management cell, however, claimed to have received only 15 complaints of waterlogging in all. Five incidents of minor collapses of house portions were recorded in Mumbai. While no fatalities were reported in these, two persons sustained injuries in one of the incidents. The parched districts of Latur and Osmanabad in Marathwada also witnessed heavy rainfall Sunday.
These are the names of the people who lost their lives:
1. Shahajahan Khurshid Aalam Ansari – (F) age 42 years
2. Aayesha Mobin Ansari (F) 38 years
3. Muddashir Khurshid Aalam Ansari (M) 20 years
4. Saif Khurshid Aalam Ansari (M) 17 years
5. Khalid Khurshid Aalam Ansari (M) 15 years
6. Shakib Khurshid Aalam Ansari ( M ) 11 years
7. Suphiya Shahnavaz Shah (F) 19 yrs
8. Yehem Ejaz Shah (M) 10 yrs