Mahim building collapse: Residents race with thieves to salvage valuables

Jun 13, 2013, 06:24 IST | Nigel Buthello

As beggars, druggies forage through the remains of the crumbled Altaf Mansion in Mahim for lost cash, gold and valuables, police help residents locate their possessions before they get in the wrong hands

Residents of Altaf Mansion are facing an uphill task trying to get back their possessions lost in the debris. On the night of June 10, one half of the building collapsed in Mahim, killing 10 people. As rescue work was in progress through the night, debris of the building was moved and dumped at Reti Bunder, about 450 metres from the site of the disaster.

To keep scavengers away from the secondary site at Reti Bunder, where Altaf Mansion’s debris has been dumped, police have deployed officers at the site

This rubble consisted of a lot of valuables, money, gold and possessions, including important documents, belonging to the residents who once inhabited the building. While people’s possessions were being shifted to Reti Bunder, many of the items got mixed up with the rubble left unattended. Seeking to cash in on the disaster, opportunistic onlookers and possible drug addicts from the area began scouring through the debris looking for valuables and money, locals said. 

Eyewitnesses present at the site claimed that among the people who were trying to help clear the rubble, there were many who were looking for gold and other valuables. To prevent the scavenging at the Reti Bunder site where the debris has been dumped, the Mahim police deployed officers to make sure that those who weren’t residents of the building did not come near the site.

Cops step in
Police officers also made sure that whatever was found in the rubble be taken to Mahim police station and inventoried. An inspector at the station on condition of anonymity said, “Whatever is found at the site will be brought here and a record will be made. Whoever has lost something in the rubble and wishes to search for it will have to take permission from the police station or check with the officials if it is here.”

Juveri Mithaiwala, a resident of Altaf Mansion, who survived the collapse while in the building with her entire family, said, “To help others with their search, my brother and his friends collected whatever belongings they could and moved it to the neighbouring buildings. This way residents can come and check if any of their belongings are present there, making it easier for all.”

Galen Bowan, a resident of the building who lives with his uncle Joseph Bowan, said, “We have lost many things with the house, but the one thing we are on the lookout for is my uncle’s passport.” He said that his passport was intact since it was at his uncle’s office, but his uncle had left his own passport at home, which is currently lost in the rubble.

Bowan is among the many residents who are searching for their valuables in the wreckage and at the site the rubble has been moved to. However, the heavy monsoon rains and the massive heap of debris is not going to make the searching by survivors any easier at the site of the collapse or at Reti Bunder, where rubble from the collapse is being deposited. 

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