The victims of the Shankarlok building collapse — those who survived and those who didn’t - were well aware of its extreme dilapidation. The BMC had warned them time and again that it could fall anytime.

Rendered Homeless: Locals and firefighters sift through the rubble after the collapse
Rendered Homeless: Locals and firefighters sift through the rubble after the collapse. Pic/Nimesh Dave

The residents of six buildings, as well as the abutting Catherine chawl, were served notices to be stay away from Shankarlok, which came down around 11.45 am in Vakola.

The ground-plus-seven-storey structure was 35 years old, and had been declared dangerous for habitation by the BMC in 2008 and an eviction notice was issued to the residents. However, a resident of the building had dragged the matter to court, stopping the BMC from taking action and evacuating them. The BMC then sent another notice to them in 2010.

On March 6 this year, the BMC issued its last notice to the distressed building, and also to the six buildings and the chawl in its vicinity, cautioning residents that Shankarlok was in a state of utter disrepair and could fall any time, and that the occupants should not be staying close to it.

Sanjay Deshmukh, municipal additional commissioner (western suburbs), said, “An advocate residing on the ground floor of Shankarlok building had obtained a stay order from court on the BMC’s eviction notice, even though the building needed urgent demolition. If only the families occupying it had listened to us and vacated it, no lives would have been lost today.”

He added, “We had issued notices to Catherine chawl, stating that the water tank of Shankarlok building was towards them and if the building did come down, it might collapse right on top of their chawl.”

The chawl comprised some 21 homes.

Lauren Fernandes, a resident of the chawl, said, “I have been staying here for the past 12 years. But since then, Shankarlok building has been partially vacated. I had gone to my mother’s with my daughter. Minutes before the building collapsed on our chawl, I had called up my husband, who came out of the house to attend the phone, and was thus saved.”

Local corporator Sunaina Potnis said that she had recently held a joint meeting and raised the issue of safety for chawl residents, after which the BMC had issued them notices.