A short, shrill siren pierced the air at Maradu, an urban hub near Kochi, at 11.16 am on Saturday. As the siren died, the 19-storeyed Holy Faith H2O apartment complex was demolished, with authorities using the controlled implosion method to pull the structure down.
Minutes later, the 16-storeyed twin towers of Alfa Serene too were demolished.
How authorities prepared
Prohibitory orders under Sec 144 was enforced by police at 8 am to prevent public movement on land, air and water within the 200-m zone. Special care was taken not to suspend traffic for too long on NH-66 bypass, which connects Kochi with Kanyakumari. A control room was set up, where top police officers, district and municipality officials assembled to get a clear view of the demolition.
The waterfront properties, built in violation of CRZ norms, were pulled down to comply with a Supreme Court order of last May. Two more apartment complexes — the 17-storeyed Golden Kayaloram and Jain Coral Cove — are scheduled to be demolished on Sunday.
The four apartment complexes had 325 units together. Of them, 54 were unsold. In 2005-06, the then CPM-controlled Maradu panchayat (which would become a municipality in 2010) had issued the permits for the apartment complexes. However, no mandatory clearance was taken from the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority, trapping the projects in legal hurdles from the outset of their launch.
As Holy Faith H2O and Alfa Serene were demolished on Saturday, hundreds of people stood at nearby roads, buildings and even at a special ‘implosion viewing gallery’, cheering as the structures were reduced to dust. However, the evicted flat owners, who had visited the buildings in the days leading up to the demolition, were nowhere to be seen.
Dr R Venugopal, Deputy Chief Controller of Explosives under the Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO), who is overseeing the operations, said “This is the first time in the country that such a huge building with 60 metres of height (referring to Holy Faith H2O) is being demolished. Also, for the first time, we have used non-electric detonators for the implosion to reduce the shattering of debris and the use of explosives. Both flats were pulled down as we had planned.”