Mumbra building collapse: Panic-stricken locals desert houses

After more than 24 hours, rescue operations were still underway at the Mumbra building collapse site. Hundred personnel from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), apart from officials from the Mumbai fire brigade, police and volunteers were working relentlessly to save as many lives as possible.

Photos: Man-made mayhem shocks Mumbra

Civilians and firemen carry out rescue operations at the building collapse at Mumbra in Thane. Around two cranes at all times were being used to remove the debris at the disaster spot. Pic/Sameer Markande

On Thursday afternoon, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan along with his deputy Ajit Pawar and home minister RR Patil and Thane guardian minister Ganesh Naik visited the spot.

Photos: Similar disasters that took place in Mumbai

One of the chief commanders of NDRF, Alok Avasthy, termed the disaster a ‘sandwich collapse’, when a building completely disintegrate in a collapse and is mashed to bits. He said, “We have specialised and sophisticated machines, which we are using to the best of our abilities in order to remove people from under the rubble.”

Sajara Khan
Sajara Khan who moved to the building opposite to the collapsed site recently is forced to stay on because of she has nowhere to go. Other residents who were living in such illegal structures have vacated their houses fearing for their lives

The rescue team used state-of-the-art equipment such as live detectors to help find people stuck under the debris. Since the apparatus works best when the noise in the vicinity is nominal, it was used during night for rescuing victims. “Rescue work, which involves people who are still alive but may be injured, has to be done very carefully. The aim is to save as many people as possible,” Avasthy added.

Dread-struck exodus
Locals as well as officials have claimed that the building was constructed within a matter of a few months. Residents of other buildings in the neighborhood have deserted their homes, leaving behind belongings in the fear of similar calamity. Mosin Khan, an eyewitness, said, “After seeing the seven-storey building collapse, people left their homes in panic within a matter of hours, thinking they might suffer the same fate.”

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However, in a city like Mumbai where property comes at nightmarish prices for most, many of these fright-stricken locals cannot afford to move out to safer spots. Sajara Khan, who recently moved to a building adjacent to the one that fell apart, said. “I was afraid to see the building opposite to ours collapse. But then I cannot afford to go anywhere else.”

Good souls
Many locals were seen distributing bottled water and glucose biscuits to rescue workers. One of the volunteers at the site said, “People from nearby localities have been helping rescue officials to pull out victims from under the debris. Since there is no drinking water facility around, we decided to distribute water to people.” A volunteers’ group, Civil Defence Rescue Personnel, was found helping police and fire brigade officials at the site.

Crane operator overwhelmed
For 29-year-old Somnath Budhawale (circled), a crane operator at the site who was helping remove the debris to fish out bodies, it was a sleepless night on Thursday which would remain in his memory for a long time. He seemed overwhelmed with the sheer calamity he had to witness at the job he was tasked with. Initially, Budhawale was hesitant to talk to us.

Somnath Budhawale

“Talking about it would keep me from carrying on working at the site,” he told us. But he changed his mind and shared his experience during break time. “Whenever I saw any sign of life, I would slow down the crane in order to save as many people as I could. There were a lot of household objects such as utensils, which were obstructing rescue work. I have been working since Thursday midnight,” he said. Asked how he was coping with working while there were dead bodies all around, he shrugged and said, “I am uneducated. I don’t have any option but to do this job.” 

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