The illegally constructed four-storeyed Somnath building collapsed yesterday afternoon at Taljai Hill, Sahakar Nagar, killing six construction workers and injuring 17 others. Around three persons are believed trapped under the debris and rescue operations, including a dog squad has been pressed into service till late last night.
The incident took place at around 2 pm when construction work was going on. In moments, the structure collapsed like a stack of cards and around 15 workers, including the family of a watchman, were trapped under the debris.
Some workers were doing the plastering work on the front of the building, while others were painting the rear of the structure when the incident happened. “We heard a loud noise and reached the spot immediately. We could not see anything for sometime as the site was shrouded in a cloud of dust. We could hear screams and cries for help, including those of children, coming from beneath the mound of debris. We immediately called the police and the fire brigade,” said Prakash Pophale, a resident from the area.
The building is allegedly co-owned and constructed by former Congress corporator Sanjay Nande and Lahu Sawant. Additional Commissioner of Police (North Region) Chandrashekar Daithankar said that investigation into who owns the building is on and appropriate action will be initiated after all the documents are examined.
Residents of the vicinity claim that several norms had been flouted and also that though the plumbing and painting work was still being done on the top floor of the building, flats on the lower floors were approved and sold.
“The material used for construction was inferior. Dust has been used in the construction instead of sand, and only six bars of 12 mm rods were used per column. Nande owns the building and has constructed three other buildings in the area. He is a politically strong personality and nobody is ready to complain against him,” said a resident from a neighbouring building, on condition of anonymity.
Municipal Commissioner Mahesh Pathak said, “The construction of the building is illegal. Only 0.3 per cent FSI is approved for constructions in this area, but the building was a ground plus three floors. On the September 1, we had sent notice to the owner and to the police. But no action was taken because of non-availability of manpower due to additional security measures for the Ganesh festival. Action will now be taken under the BPMC Act and Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act.”
Police personnel and a team from the Natural Disaster Rescue Force along with a dog squad reached the spot and rescued six people, including two girls. The injured were shifted to Bharati, Katraj and Pawar hospitals in Balaji Nagar, while the dead were sent to Sassoon Hospital for post-mortem.
Amidst the fear and confusion, it was a stroke of luck for Amar Shinde and his family, who were residing in the building when it collapsed. “Luckily my parents had gone out on work and I was eating my lunch alone in our ground floor quarters, which we had rented. I heard some noise and saw dust rising into the air, so I ran out of the building. The next moment, the whole building collapsed. I was in shock and felt thankful that I escaped, but soon the horror dawned that there were more people in the building when it collapsed,” said Amar.
Amar’s father Dilip could not hold back his tears when he saw that his home had crumbled into a mound of debris. “As soon as I heard of the incident, I ran towards home along with my wife. When we finally saw our son running out of the house, we were relieved. I have lost all my life savings, including gold and cash worth Rs 40,000 and our belongings. We fear for the future as we are not only homeless, but have absolutely nothing to survive on,” Dilip said.
Another family living in the building were also lucky. Sayli, Nalini and Namrata Kamble, daughters of Nagsingh and Laxmi Kamble were rescued from beneath the debris by the dog squad.