In yet another building collapse incident, four workers and a watchman lost their lives after a two-storeyed structure, housing a garment factory on the first floor, collapsed in Kalher village near Bhiwandi after midnight on Wednesday. The building was located at Arihant Compound which houses several godowns and factories on its premises.
Of the five, the three deceased were identified as workers Munna Vajul Diwan (25) and Sheikh Tajamul (28), and security guard Virendra Pandey (45). The injured were rushed to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, Sainath Hospital and Kashinath Patil Hospital in Bhiwandi.
Police officials said the owner of Big Garment factory Prem Lakshmandas Punjabi (39) had purchased shop no 5, 6 and 7 on the first floor of the building to manufacture kurtis. They said a total of 45 people were in the factory when the building collapsed. While 13 workers managed to escape, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) rescued 26 others. Bodies of the deceased were said to be trapped under the debris. Initially, confusion loomed large as to how many were trapped and how many had managed to escape the disaster.
NDRF Assistant Commandant S A Ahmed, in-charge of the rescue operation, said, “Some of the workers managed to escape a few minutes after the building collapsed. We are dependent on them to give us the exact number of people who were there in the building when it collapsed and how many managed to escape. But they themselves are clueless because those who escaped were neither in the vicinity nor in their dormitory. We’ll have to clear the debris to know how many are still trapped.”
Rakesh Gusrani, purchase section supervisor, was at the site assisting the NDRF personnel by giving them details of the workers. “The problem is that we don’t know if all the workers, who were supposed to be on-duty, reported to work. We also don’t know how many people escaped. Two workers who escaped are here, so I have given an account of the incident to the NDRF personnel based on their narration,” he said.
While teams of NDRF, civil defence and fire brigade officials from Bhiwandi, Thane and Kalyan joined hands to carry out rescue operation, majority of it was orchestrated by the NDRF that pressed 90 members into action. Equipment such as victim-locating cameras, air-lifting bags, life detectors and various cutters were used to carry out the rescue work.
“We had to execute the rescue operation from above because there was no way to enter the building from the side due to the debris. We would have ended up getting trapped had we done it from the side,” Ahmed said.
Senior Inspector D B Patil of the Narpoli police station said, “The Kopar Gram Panchayat had given permission for ground plus one structure in 2001. The building was built in 2005-06. However, construction work of the second floor had recently commenced. We are waiting to get documents from the builder (Sanjay Dediya) for verification following which further action will be initiated. We have registered a case against Arihant Construction under IPC sections 304 (negligence), 34 (homicide, common intention), 336, 337 and 338.
An NDRF personnel said though the roof was made of concrete, it had an additional layer of bricks on top. “Construction work and rains in the last two days led to overburdening and weakening of the structure, which finally gave way,” he said.
Mohammad Israil (32), a worker who had a close shave with death, said, “It happened so fast that no one could run when the building started to crumble. After the building fell we saw light entering the debris from somewhere and a few of us went in that direction. We had to break open an iron net that covered the opening.
Once we were out, we did not see how many people came out and where they went after escaping.”
While one of Israil’s brothers Mohammad Mustakim (17) is admitted to the hospital, his second brother Mohammad Ansarul (22) was trapped under the debris. Israil had joined the factory just eight months ago.
Mohammad Abir Hussain, brother of Isharapul Vakil Chudiya, said his brother had fractured his right leg and had glass pieces embedded in his leg. “He’s finding it difficult to move his leg and there are chances that he might lose it. Fortunately, he survived the mishap due to God’s grace.”
Mithilesh Pandey, son of security guard Virendra Pandey who died in the accident, said, “I am also working in the same company. While I work from 9.30 am to 6.30 pm, my father used to work in the night shift. I got a call from the security manager saying that the building collapsed around 1 am. I rushed to the site only to be told that my father was no more.”
Mohammud Khurshid, brother of Munna Diwan, said, “He was working there for the last two years and used to stay in the factory itself. He was working in the night shift. I got a call at 4 am informing me about this mishap. We are Nepalese and would be taking his body back to our hometown for final rites.”