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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Mahad Building collapse: Stacked tower of debris slowed rescue efforts

In a pancake collapse, floors crash on top of each other and the debris is stacked like a pancake tower. The debris has to be removed layer by layer to reach those trapped under it.

Written by Sagar Rajput | Mahad | Updated: August 27, 2020 11:10:45 am
Mahad Building collapse, rescue efforts, NDRF team, Mumbai news, Indian express newsThe five-storey Tarique Gardens building in Mahad, about 170 km from Mumbai, collapsed on Monday. (Express Photo by Narendra Vaskar)

Disaster experts and rescuers have a description for the Tarique Gardens crash – a “pancake collapse”. And it is one of the main reasons why it took the well-equipped National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) well over 24 hours to rescue residents trapped under the debris. Until late evening, four people were still stuck under the slabs of concrete and mortar.

In a pancake collapse, floors crash on top of each other and the debris is stacked like a pancake tower. The debris has to be removed layer by layer to reach those trapped under it.

In multi-storey buildings, a pancake collapse is regarded as one of the worst types of building disasters. Rescue experts said that it leaves no cavities for undertaking rescue missions and operations have to be carried out manually. High-tech machinery is of little use in this situation. The lack of cavities means that spaces that can protect people from the impact of the falling debris are also absent.

Mahad Building collapse: Stacked tower of debris slowed rescue efforts Rescue experts said that a pancake collapse leaves no cavities for undertaking rescue missions and operations have to be carried out manually. (Express Photo by Narendra Vaskar)

“There is less scope to find survivors in such a collapse since removing debris takes time and there is no ventilation for air to reach them,” said NDRF Deputy Commandant Alok Kumar.

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Those part of the rescue operation said that chances of survival increase when there are air gaps created by collapsing structures – say a cupboard holding a wall on its top or a staircase creating a gap between two collapsed floors.

The building collapse in Mahad did not provide that scope. In a pancake collapse, the entire structure falls at one spot, making less room for entry point for rescue team and for ventilation, while when a building falls in a slanted position, there is more room for entry of drilling machines and it is easier for those trapped to come out.

Mahad Building collapse: Stacked tower of debris slowed rescue efforts High-tech machinery is of little use in this situation. The lack of cavities means that spaces that can protect people from the impact of the falling debris are also absent. (Express Photo by Narendra Vaskar)

“The chances of people surviving are a lot more if there are spaces created by falling structures, which can provide some sort of protection. However, in pancake collapses like this one, such spaces are less, which makes survival as well as rescue operations a lot more difficult,” Kumar said. Officials said that the work becomes even more tedious as rescuers have to undertake rescue missions manually despite the presence of hi-tech machinery. This is done to limit aggravating the injuries of those trapped.

Four-year-old Mohammed Bangi survived because he was in a void, which rescuers said was a miracle.

“It is a miracle the child survived. When our personnel reached him, he was found in a sitting position,” Kumar said, referring to Bangi, who was rescued on Tuesday, 19 hours after the building collapsed.

‘Went to alert residents, was buried under rubble’

Mahad: Out on an evening walk on Monday, Mujais Shaikh had tried to warn the residents of Tarique Garden building in Mahad when a huge pile of concrete collapsed on him. Shaikh (32) was extricated one-and-a-half hours later by local residents and a civic administration team.

Shaikh, who has sustained injuries on his back and hands, Tuesday said, “I was on a walk with my friend Naveed Duste when we saw a huge amount of plaster falling from the building. We went a little inside the building to alert the residents, a huge pile of rubble fell on me.”

A pillar had collapsed on Duste, who has been admitted to a private hospital in Mumbai. “I have been told that the leg on which the pillar fell is not functioning,” Shaikh said.

Soon after he was rescued, Shaikh had rushed home to inform his parents instead of going to a hospital. “My parents have high blood pressure, so I just rushed to them after I was pulled out of the rubble. Later in the night, I went for a check-up at the civic hospital,” he said.

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