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Monday, February 17, 2020

‘Huge victory of technical experts’: Two illegal Kochi apartments razed to rubble, two more tomorrow

The Jain Coral Cove complex, the biggest of the four, will be demolished on Sunday, January 12 at 11 am, followed by Golden Kayaloram, the smallest, at 2 pm.

Written by Vishnu Varma | Kochi | Updated: January 11, 2020 8:50:35 pm
The H20 Holy Faith was the first building to be demolished on Saturday. (Express photo: Nitin RK)

Six seconds. That’s all it took for the 19-storey H20 Holy Faith apartment in Kochi to be turned to rubble in a cloud of dust through controlled explosion on Saturday. Twenty-eight minutes later, at 11:44 am, the twin towers of the Alfa Serene apartment similarly crashed to the ground, successfully capping the first phase of the demolition of four residential complexes in the city as per the orders of the Supreme Court. In May last year, the top court had ordered the razing of the four luxury apartments for breaching CRZ norms.

“The demolition has gone absolutely according to the plan. Almost perfect. The collateral damage has been almost nil. There has been no harm to human or animal life. No perceptible damage to any property as well,” Vijay Sakhare, Kochi city police commissioner, told reporters.

District Collector S Suhas added, “Wonderfully executed. We have checked all the areas. In Holy Faith as well as the first tower of Alfa Serene, all the debris has been contained within the compound. In the second tower of Alfa, some of the debris has fallen into the backwaters. It was purposefully done because there were houses nearby. Our vibrations readings are within safety limits.”

Express Explained | How four apartments in Kochi will be brought down on Jan 11-12

Two towers of the Alfa Serene came crashing down minutes after the first building’s demolition. (Source: PRD Kerala govt)

“Everything is perfectly in place. Not even a single stone has gone into the water body. A bit of the compound wall has been damaged. Apart from that, there are no issues. Everything has gone as per our design. All of us are happy,” Utkarsh Mehta, MD of Mumbai-based Edifice Engineering which undertook the demolition of the H20 Holy Faith apartment, told reporters. He added that the debris would be cleared in the next 30 days.

A technical committee comprising of experts and officials of the local municipality will undertake door-to-door check through the day to ensure there has been no collateral damage to nearby houses. Both the residential complexes are located in highly-dense neighbourhoods within the Maradu municipality.

An aerial view of people flocked to watch the demolition of the two buildings. (Source: PRD Kerala govt)

‘Massive public interest’

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 had been enforced by the local police at 8 am to prevent any public movement on land, air and water within the 200-metre zone. Special care had been taken not to suspend traffic for too long on NH66 bypass that connects Kochi with Kanyakumari. A control room was set up at the office of the local municipality where top police officers, district and municipality officials assembled to get a clear view of the demolition.

In the hours preceding the demolition, large crowds began to assemble outside the 200-metre exclusion zone of the residential complexes to capture the moment when the highrises are brought down. Early in the morning, youngsters, armed with cell phones, had started to make their way toward Maradu to capture the once-in-a-lifetime moment. They were especially eager to replicate the video on their social media platforms. Many people had also travelled from the suburbs of the city to capture the moment.

Vijayan, 62, a construction worker, had stationed himself under the Thevara-Kundannoor bridge by 10:45 am to witness the demolition. The position was perfect: it gave an unobstructed view of the H2O Holy Faith apartments on the other banks of the backwaters. Exactly at 11:16 am, a siren issued by the fire force signalled the building was about to come down. Seconds later, the detonators, connected by electrical charge, blasted setting off the explosives on fire and bringing down the highrise in a large plume of smoke. As the dark grey smoke spread immediately around the area, the crowds dispersed in different directions. Within just 10 minutes, the dust retreated to reveal the mangled debris of the apartment.

“Actually, I didn’t even feel it. It was very smooth. We expected to hear a huge bang, but there was nothing of the sort. Since I’m watching it for the first time, it was quite an experience,” said Vijayan.

The 19-storey Holy Faith building came crashing down within seconds of the explosion done on different floors.

But for people whose homes are located close to the residential complex, the experience was no less than harrowing.

“Our house is tile-roofed and is quite old. It’s right next to the H20 Holy Faith apartment. At 8 am, the police told us to shift to the shelter camps. But we didn’t want to go there. We left our homes, but we stood closeby to watch the demolition. So far, it looks fine, but we have to go back to see what’s left of our homes,” said Bindu, a homemaker, who was joined by her siblings.

“The officials had come to take photos of our home, but they didn’t do anything to protect the home. They didn’t even us give us a tarpaulin sheet to cover it from dust,” she added.

Her brother Sinu, who works with a food processing factory, acknowledged the expertise of the demolition teams behind the smooth exercise.

“It’s a huge victory of the technical experts, no doubt. I didn’t expect it to be so smooth,” he remarked.

Two more demolitions on Sunday

The second-phase of the demolition exercise in Maradu municipality will commence on Sunday with the razing of the Jain Coral Cove flats, the largest of the four complexes, at 11 am. At 2 pm, the Golden Kayaloram flats will be brought down through controlled blasting. Both the apartments are being demolished by Edifice Engineering.

The Kochi Police intend to repeat the same drill and the security blanket it deployed today on Sunday as well to mark the safe completion of the demolition, as ordered by the top court. Since the apartments are located in sparsely-populated areas, the evacuation of nearby residents would be quicker and easier. Prohibitory orders would be enforced in the hours leading up to the demolition and the public would be allowed to return to their homes only after the fire and rescue services give the signal.

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