A 35-year-old woman and her minor daughter were killed while two more members of their family were injured in a house collapse in North Delhi’s Kashmere Gate on Tuesday.
The deceased have been identified as Chandni Devi and her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Rooprani, while her elder daughter Ladlee (11) is reported to be critical. Devi’s brother Anil was later discharged after treatment.
The single-storey structure was estimated to be over a century old and is located in the same premises as Skinner House, which has been listed as a heritage building by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation. It was inhabited by the victim’s family which also includes Devi’s husband Manoj and the couple’s three sons, all of whom were not present when the mishap took place.
A municipal official said the house belonged to the Land and Development Office, Delhi, which comes under the Union Urban Development Ministry. The LDO, the official said, had leased it out to someone who had hired Manoj as caretaker of the house.
Recounting his ordeal, Anil, who sustained head injury and saw his sister and two nieces getting trapped under the debris, said: “Around 10-30 a.m. when we were all sitting together and watching television in the living room, all of a sudden we felt vibrations and almost immediately the roof caved in on us. I rushed to the kitchen which is adjacent to the room and managed to save myself but all of them came under the debris.”
Manoj, who was at his ice-candy shop that he runs outside the building, heard the sound of the collapse and immediately rushed in. He was joined by some neighbours in his rescue efforts. The Police Control Room and the Delhi Fire Service were also informed and four fire tenders were pressed into service.
The single-storey structure at 504, Ganda Nala Bazaar, is located opposite the MCD community centre and area residents said the buildings numbered from 503 to 509 were part of the same premises. The adjoining buildings on either side of the one which collapsed are multi-storey ones and mainly contain shops. Most of these shops sell automobile spare parts.
“The residents in these buildings are not owners. These buildings are either under the MCD or custodian properties and hence the residents have no power or permission for renovation. However, illegal construction is rampant,” said Amit, who works at a ground floor shop that is part of the Skinner House. This, he said, was a cause for concern as storey upon storey of illegal construction crops up in the crowded by-lanes while no repair work for the existing structures can be undertaken by the residents.
The police have registered a case against unidentified persons under sections 304-A (causing death by negligence) and 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) of the Indian Penal Code and for negligent conduct with respect to pulling down or repairing buildings.