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BMC had no idea the 115-year-old building was under renovation

Part of a 115-year-old building in Lower Parel collapsed last morning, leaving two dead and six others injured. A slab in the second floor of the Victoria House building, which is located in the Kamala Mills compound, caved in. The building, which was under renovation, serves as office space for JSW Ispat Steel Ltd. All the victims were employees of the company.

Victoria House building

BMC officers revealed that they had not been asked for permission for renovation work in the building.

Victoria House building
Caved in: Sources said that the two pillars on the ground floor of the Victoria House building, which was under renovation, were in a severely damaged condition. Pics/Shadab Khan and Datta Kumbhar

Sources revealed that even though two pillars on the ground floor of the building were in a severely damaged condition, staff members of JSW Ispat Steel Ltd were told to continue working in the building.

At the time of the collapse, at least 50 employees were working on the first floor, and 20-25 on the second floor.

One of the eyewitnesses said, “Someone from the ground floor came up and alerted us that two pillars on the ground floor were damaged. We also saw some cracks on the first floor wall, which looked quite dangerous. We told the staff member to steer clear of that part of the building. The accident took place two hours later.” Another eyewitness said, “The building started shaking a few minutes before it collapsed. We made a dash for safety.”

The building was constructed in 1897. Chief Fire Officer S V Joshi said that rescue operations were completed in about three or four hours. A fire brigade vehicle and two fire officers have been kept on standby near the spot.

No permission?
Officers of the G-north ward of BMC said they had no idea that renovation work was underway in the premises. “Neither the Building and Factory department nor the Building Proposal department has any records on permission given to the building for renovation,” said Keshav Ubale, assistant commissioner of the ward.

Ministerspeak
Sachin Ahir, state Housing Minister and representative for the Worli constituency visited the spot. He said, “The BMC should conduct a probe on the incident and file a police complaint against those who are guilty. A criminal case should be filed against the owner and lessee of the structure. BMC officials should also be held responsible for their negligence,” said Ahir.

JSW Ispat Steel says
A spokesperson for Corporate Communications of JSW Ispat Steel Ltd said, “Our staff members found some cracks on the wall today, but we didn’t know that the portion would collapse. Otherwise we would have had evacuated the place.” A written release from the company later said, “This event appears to have happened due to certain modifications carried out within a part of the ground floor – which does not belong to the JSW Group. The company’s immediate priority is to provide all assistance and the best medical help to the affected employees. Victoria House building is the registered office of JSW Ispat Steel Ltd and was acquired by the firm in 2005.¬†

Voices
‘We are happy to be alive’

My son is fine now, and it was just a fracture that was the cause of worry. We will be shifting him soon and he is stable now. We came to know about the incident at around 1 pm in the afternoon and I was glad to find out that my son was safe.
— Rekha Patil, mother of Aniruddh Patil (27) who suffered head and muscle injuries in the incident

I had gone to my boss’s desk to discuss some work related queries. I heard a loud sound, only to realise the building had collapsed, and had fallen on us as well. Both of us were covered in rubble in a minute and felt we had the portion of slab had fallen on us. I was finding it very difficult to get out due to my injury, but somehow I managed with help from my boss.
— S B Panikar (60), who suffered a fracture to his arm

I am feeling fine now as this was a disaster which came and went. We cannot tell who was responsible as no one can be held responsible for such things, but instead we can be happy that we are alive. Though I am in pain, I am happy that my life was saved.
— Rajeev Jain (46), who suffered lower rib fractures and had bruises on his forehead

Hiral was safe, she was just too scared with the whole incident. She has injuries on her leg but has evaded any fractures. The company will be shifting them from KEM to Jaslok soon for further treatment.
— A colleague of injured Hiral Dev (30), who requested anonymity

I was working on the first floor when the collapse occurred, and a part of the slab injured my hand and wrist, which is currently hurting a lot. Still, I am glad that I have sustained only minor fractures, which will heal in a month, rather than losing my life. The incident was a major one, and I am lucky to be alive.
— Prakash Nambi (41), who suffered a fractured wrist

There were six injured and two dead in this incident, and the patients, identified as Rajeev Jain, S B Panikar, Prakash Nambi, Hiral Dev, Anirudh Patil and Suraj Dhandhaniya will be shifting from this hospital as soon as I have been instructed by the company’s management.
— Preeti Mehta, acting dean of KEM Hospital


Rescued: An injured being taken to KEM Hospital. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

I was talking to my colleague on the second floor when the collapse happened, and I lost consciousness. I woke up in hospital, and I don’t remember anything. My colleagues brought me here and my family is yet to arrive. I have a severe back pain, which is making me feel very unstable currently.
— Sanjay Dhandhaniya (41), employed in the company’s taxation department

— As told to Chetna Yerunkar

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