Audit report had warned BMC the building was weak

Toll rises to 54,one arrested

Written by Alison Saldanha | Mumbai | Published: September 29, 2013 4:10:30 am

A structural audit by Pentacle Consultants (India) Pvt Ltd of the Babu Genu municipal market more than 10 months ago had unequivocally warned the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) that the building was structurally weak,requiring immediate evacuation and repairs.

The market building suffered a pancake collapse at 5.45 am Friday. The toll so far is 54 and 33 people have been injured. Rescue operations were on more than 40 hours after the collapse.

The 33-year old building — with 28 residential flats in its four upper floors,seven of which were vacant — was slotted for renovation and major repairs this year and the BMC had even allocated about Rs 1.25 crore in the budget for 2013-14.

The audit by the BMC at the behest of residents was submitted to the civic body on November 5,2012. It recommended immediate temporary rehabilitation of residents for 12 months. “Any delay will affect the structural condition of the building adversely,” Additional Municipal Commissioner SVR Srinivas said,reading out the audit report at the special BMC general body meeting on Saturday.

“Additional reinforcement of the building from top to bottom,urgent extensive propping especially on the ground floor,and repairs on the main columns and beams of the structure on a priority basis are required as major cracks have developed on these,” the audit report said.

The corporation has yet to affix responsibility for the collapse. For now,the markets and the planning and development departments,responsible for redevelopment and repairs of BMC-owned properties,are blaming each other. A section of officials in the BMC said the civic body should have invoked the urgency clause to float a tender for repair work.

Additional municipal commissioner Manisha Mhaiskar,in charge of both departments,said,“We did not invoke the urgency clause for the tender because it was categorised as C2 (B) and not C1. We are now holding an inquiry into why the classification was not changed.”

While the C1 category demands immediate evacuation from the dangerous building,C2 (B) defines the building as “dilapidated and in need of urgent repairs though evacuation is not necessary”.

A senior BMC official,however,said,“Irrespective of its categorisation,the mere mention that further delay could adversely affect the structure should have set the alarm bells ringing and pushed the department to issue the tender for renovation in January. At the latest,work should have begun by March. If the procedure for issuing the tender was being delayed,the ‘urgency clause’ should have been invoked.”

Apart from revealing the contents of the audit report,the administration said illegal constructions carried out by Mama Mia Developers for Jain Decorators,who had a godown on the ground floor,may have led to the collapse,said BMC officials. “A mezzanine floor was being constructed there. Extra load on the beams could have caused the collapse,” Srinivas told the House,adding that a notice has been sent to the developers and Sewri police has filed a First Information Report (FIR).

The audit report,however,does not mention illegal alterations on the ground floor as the cause of the structure’s weakening. “Probable causes may be heavy deterioration of the original construction framework,rotting of the iron frame,water seepage,use of poor construction material,etc,” it said.

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