Dongri building collapse: Location and locals complicate rescue ops

Updated: Jul 17, 2019, 07:38 IST | Arita Sarkar

Apart from more than 80 fire brigade officials, 35 members of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were working together to rescue around 15 families who were said to be trapped under the debris

Dongri building collapse: Location and locals complicate rescue ops
Relatives of the deceased mourn at JJ hospital. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

The rescue operations at Tandel Street in Dongri, which started around noon on Tuesday after the Kesarbai Mansion collapsed, ran into several hurdles. Apart from more than 80 fire brigade officials, 35 members of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were working together to rescue around 15 families who were said to be trapped under the debris.

Fire brigade officials said that due to the location of the building, they were not able to bring any JCB diggers to the spot and the rescue operations were entirely being done manually. "The building was in a narrow lane and we had to manually remove all the debris. We were not able to use gas cutters initially for about two hours since there was a LPG leak in the area and the cutters could have led to an explosion. Thus, we had to use hydraulic equipment to cut through the metal parts to rescue people who were trapped," said a senior fire brigade official who was present at the spot. The locals also complicated matters. One of the NDRF officials said the locals were trying to help, but they were stepping on the debris while people were trapped underneath. "If we had space, then we could have worked faster. But locals were trying to use hammers to remove debris. All of this delayed the rescue work," said the official.

Fire brigade officials had to cut through iron beams, spread the wooden planks and remove debris using hydraulic cutters, spreader and power tools, to rescue Zeenat Salmani alive
Fire brigade officials had to cut through iron beams, spread the wooden planks and remove debris using hydraulic cutters, spreader and power tools, to rescue Zeenat Salmani alive

Other buildings evacuated

Chief fire officer P Rahangdale said that since the neighbouring buildings were also at risk, they were all evacuated. He pointed out that they were able to rescue many of the victims alive but the process took time. Rahangdale spoke about the rescue of Zeenat Salmani, 23, at around 2 pm. "While rescuing a child, we saw some movement. We spotted her hand and realised that she was still alive. She was dehydrated, so we gave her ORS liquid a couple of times and kept her awake," he said.

Rahangdale added that she was trapped under the debris, which included a heavy iron beam wooden door and a LPG cylinder. After cutting through iron beams, spreading the wooden planks and removing debris using hydraulic cutters, spreader and power tools, which took around an hour and a half, the fire brigade officials were able to rescue her alive. Since JCB diggers were not available, the disaster management labourers handed sacks of debris down a human chain. Later, they were able to bring a bobcat — a smaller digger — to help clear out the debris. As the rescue operations continued, various politicians and senior police officials rushed to the spot. Among them were Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar, Congress MLA Amin Patel, minister for water resources Girish Mahajan, leader of opposition and member of the legislative council Dhananjay Munde, Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Azmi, housing minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and CP Sanjay Barve.

'This area is a death trap'

'This is the result of the nexus between politicians and BMC officials. This whole area has mushroomed in the last 10 years and so many of the buildings are illegal. It's a death trap and BMC should carry out an audit of all the buildings here instead of waiting for another one to collapse'
—Rais Shaikh, Samajwadi Party corporator

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