Around this time last year, the Ansari family was in a mood of celebration. Out of the household’s nine children, two — Rina (19) and Heena (21) — were to tie the knot in the following weeks, and the family members were upbeat. However, their hopes for a better future came crashing down with the seven-storey building in Lucky Compound they called home, never to revive.
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The family patriarch, Mohammed Ansari (40), buried three of his children after the incident. He is struggling to be a pillar of support for his family when they most need him.
“It is so unfair that my children, Sohail (14), Shabina (14) and Shabnam (10), died because of a greedy builder. We had no idea the building was in such a poor state. We had been living on the fifth floor barely 15 days before it collapsed. The builders should be severely punished for this,” he said.
While the family noticed that the walls of their houses vibrated every time someone did drilling at the neighbouring building, which was also under construction, they never thought it could be fatal.
“We lost jewellery and other belongings worth R9 lakh for my daughters’ weddings. Their marriages were called off, as we had nothing to offer to the boys’ families,” Ansari said.
His wife Jenaab and eight children, between the ages of 8 to 21, were at home when the building gave way around 5.30 pm on April 4 a year ago. “I thought someone was playing a sick joke on me when I was first told of the disaster. My wife and five other kids managed to escape with minor injuries, but the next day I watched them (rescue workers) pull out my twins’ bodies from the debris,” recalled Ansari.
Their lives altered forever, the family now resides in a chawl in Turbhe. Ansari has quit his job as an auto rickshaw driver because he is “unable to do such a stressful job any more”.
His son, Shahid (8), refuses to go to school, saying he lives in constant fear that the building would collapse on him.
The family received a compensation of R6 lakh for their losses. Ansari said, “Now I work with a bakery in Nerul, which barely puts food on the table. The compensation was like a rude joke. The losses we incurred are far greater,” rued the father.