Kurla building collapses death toll reaches 19; PM announces Rs 2 lakh ex-gratia
Mumbai, Jun 28: At least 19 people were dead and 14 injured after a four-storey building, which had been declared as dilapidated once but later held to be reparable', collapsed in Mumbai's Kurla area around Monday midnight.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief at the loss of lives in the building collapse. He also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund for the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured.
A PMO tweet quoting the prime minister said, "Pained by the building collapse in Mumbai. In this sad hour, my thoughts are with the bereaved families and prayers with the injured. An ex-gratia of Rs. 2 lakh each from PMNRF would be given to the next of kin of the deceased. The injured would be given Rs. 50,000."
Following the incident, another building in the complex of four buildings, Naik Nagar Housing Society, was evacuated as it too was deemed dangerous, and was later demolished by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
According to senior BMC officials, residents of the building, constructed in 1973, had undertaken to carry out repairs, but apparently no repairs were carried out. Fire Brigade, police, civic officials as well as two teams of the National Disaster Response Force carried out search and rescue operations.
NDRF's deputy commandant Ashish Kumar told PTI that the search and rescue operation ended around 6.30 pm, but the work of clearing debris was still continuing.
A total of 33 persons were rescued from the debris since Monday midnight. Of those injured, four persons were still undergoing treatment at hospitals, while others were discharged, BMC officials said.
Those rescued from the debris were taken to civic-run hospitals including Rajawadi hospital and Sion Hospital. Most of those deceased were declared dead before admission. Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray declared ex gratia aid of Rs 5 lakh each for the families of the deceased from the CM's Relief Fund. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also expressed grief at the loss of lives and announced ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund for the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured. Maharashtra Environment and Tourism Minister Aaditya Thackeray also visited the spot. This is the third major building collapse incident in the metropolis this month. On June 23, slab of a two-storey industrial structure collapsed in Chembur area, killing a man and injuring 10 others. On June 9, a three-storey residential building collapsed in suburban Bandra, where a 55-year-old man was killed and 18 others suffered injuries.
Cabbie Satish Kshetre was relaxing with his guests in his room in the neighbouring building when he suddenly felt as if an earthquake had struck. As soon as he realised that the neighbouring wing of his building had crumbled, the first thought that came to his mind was to rescue his family members and guests.
As the common staircase of the east and west sides of the affected D wing also collapsed, Kshetre, a resident of the third floor of the west side, prepared a rope using sarees and rescued ten people, including his family members and some guests visiting him, with the help of local people. All four floors located on the east portion of the D building in the Naik Nagar Coop Housing Society were sandwiched in the crash. On the west side, the ground and the first floors were affected while the remaining three floors remained intact. "For a moment I thought we will not survive but by the grace of God, we are alive," Kshetre told PTI.
Devraj Badiya, a resident of Kurla, was eagerly awaiting news about the whereabouts of his younger brother Ramesh while waiting on the road outside. The anxious wait turned into despair when Ramesh's dead body was pulled out of the debris. The BMC will carry out a probe into how the building's classification changed, and who carried out the last structural audit, said municipal commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal. The building was declared a dilapidated C1' category structure in 2016 which meant it was unfit to live in. The civic body had even initiated legal action as the society did not carry out repairs. In May 2016, its water and power connection were cut. But the building was included in the C-2B category on June 30, 2016, on the basis of structural audit report received from Sachdeva and Associates, an authorized audit firm.
A C-2B classification means a building need not be demolished and it can be repaired. "We took an undertaking from them (residents) that they would do necessary repairs. Since the building was in C2-B category, it went out of our radar," commissioner Chahal said. Ashwini Bhide, additional municipal commissioner, told PTI that the BMC had been issuing notices to the building repeatedly under the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act since 2013, initially asking for repairs and then for vacating it and demolition. "Even prosecution for non-compliance was initiated. Later the residents got structural audit redone, and got it categorised as repairable, but didn't carry out actual repairs," Bhide said. The residents stayed put despite constant efforts by the BMC to get the building vacated, she added. PTI