Mumbai: Six die as 90-year-old building in Kamathipura collapses

Workers were renovating the three-storey structure when the mishap occurred; MHADA and BMC to launch independent inquiries into whether the design of the building led to the cave-in

Najirul Shaikh owes his life to an extended lunch break. The 22-year-old construction labourer was with two friends — Minarul Shaikh (21) and Sambo Shaikh (26) — chewing paan at a three-storey building in Kamathipura they were renovating, when the structure collapsed on Saturday afternoon, killing six persons.

 Three days goFull-fledged repairs were on at the building on 14th Street, Kamathipura, just three days ago. Pic/MehtabA Quereshi

Full-fledged repairs were on at the building on 14th Street, Kamathipura, just three days ago. Pic/MehtabA Quereshi

"There were eight of us in the building. We had lunch around 1 pm and half an hour later, three of us came down to have paan. We had to get back to work at 2 pm," recalled Najirul.

Najirul and Minarul sat at a paan shop on the ground floor, while Sambo went a little farther away. Within minutes, their chatter was broken by a rumble and a loud crash. "The building completely collapsed," said Najirul. Six persons — the five workers inside the building and paan shop owner Angad Chaube — were trapped in the rubble. All of the workers were migrants from Murshidabad, West Bengal.

Rescue personnel pulled out some workers and rushed them to the hospital. Five of the injured were admitted to JJ Hospital, four of whom Jabaaz Mulla (30), Sarfulla Mulla (28), Angad Chaube (45), Wasim Bisman Mullakhan (14), who had stopped by to meet two of his uncles inside the building - were later declared dead. Three others were rushed to Nair Hospital. Two of them, an unidentified man and woman, were declared brought dead. The third, Mohammad Zakeri (50), is undergoing treatment.

Faulty design?
The 90-year-old structure next to the Pattharwali building in Kamathipura's lane number 14, which was being repaired, had been on thin ice from the beginning. Locals alleged that it had a faulty design.

 Saturday Rescue operations at the mishap site went on for hours. Pics/Ajinkya Sawant

Rescue operations at the mishap site went on for hours. Pics/Ajinkya Sawant

According to Mehtab, a resident of 14th Street, the steel angles and beams required for the construction were brought in just Friday morning. "Besides, the building was supposed to be restricted to two-storeys. I don't know how an additional floor came up," he alleged. The structure was a cessed building. A number of shops functioned out of the ground floor. Erstwhile tenants also ran some manufacturing units there.

MHADA authorities refuted the locals' allegation. Engineers from its repair and reconstruction board said the original building plan was for a ground-plus-three-storey structure. "We will carry out an inquiry into the matter to determine the cause of the mishap. I have already directed the deputy chief engineer to do so and submit a report within three days," said Sumant Bhange, chief officer of the board.

Bhange said the board carries out structural audits between March and June every year. "The building was not declared dilapidated last year. Otherwise, we would have demolished it. Neither was there a demand from tenants for redevelopment. But there were demands for repairs. Even local politicians supported it. That it why we planned these repairs," Bhange said.

The architect prepares the final renovation plans and his role in the mishap, too, will be probed. The repairs had begun on April 7, and the waterproofing and plastering work on April 28. The BMC's building construction department will also conduct an independent inquiry into the mishap.

MHADA has declared a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured. Nagpada police have registered an accidental death case. "Once there is clarity on whether was any negligence on part of the authorities concerned, we will register a case under the relevant sections," said Dhananjay Kulkarni, deputy commissioner of police and PRO, Mumbai police.

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