A 45-year-old contractor was killed and 14 labourers injured when a four-storey building caved in while they were demolishing it in the densely populated Jaffrabad area of North East Delhi in the early hours of Saturday.

The accident happened when the labourers were trying to demolish the building located next to a construction site of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. Most of the victims were present on the second and third floor of the building at the time of the collapse.

Area residents said the upper three floors had been built recently and the walls were mounted on what served as the parapet on the roof. They added that this was done without erecting pillars or columns to provide support. They also added that soon after the construction, cracks appeared in different parts of the building. As the cracks widened, the matter was brought to the notice of the local civic body, East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC).

According to a statement issued by the EDMC, after inspections were carried out on Friday evening, it was decided that the building was unsafe. In order to secure the surroundings of the structure, the building and another one adjacent to it were evacuated and the owner was served a notice. He was asked if he would demolish the dangerous portion of the building or the EDMC should do the same.

The owner, Merazuddin, offered to carry out the demolition himself.

“Late in the evening, the demolition started with around 17 people working inside the building. Three policemen and some EDMC employees were also deployed near the building to oversee the demolition. The road leading to the building was also barricaded to prevent commuters or pedestrians from coming near it,” said an eyewitness.

The preventive measures, however, proved insufficient in avoiding the mishap. At around 1:50 a.m. the building came crashing down. All the 15 workers sustained injuries and were taken out with the help of Civil Defence volunteers. The injured were rushed to the nearby Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital where the contractor, Fukran, was declared brought dead.

EDMC said that four excavators, 10 trucks and other equipment were pressed into service to remove the remaining portion of the building and clear the debris.

The police have registered a case under sections 288 (negligent conduct with respect to pulling down or repairing buildings) and 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) of the IPC against Merazuddin.

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