Authorities blame poor quality construction, building to be razed to safeguard neighbouring structures

A man was buried alive and three children — whose parents were working at the site — were injured when the ground floor of a three-storey building under construction at Garudacharipalya in Mahadevapura, caved in on Wednesday morning.

Though fire force officials, assisted by personnel from police and other government agencies, rescued the children — Malashree (7), Bagamma (6) and Kanakashree (an infant less than a year old) — trapped in the ground floor, the as-yet-unidentified man was found dead amid the debris after an 11-hour operation.

Identity confusion

Initially there was intense confusion over the identity of the victim with some eyewitnesses saying it was one of the construction workers, Sabanna. Later, Regional Fire Officer Shivshankar confirmed it was not Sabanna, but a man in his late 20s. He was wearing jeans, T-shirt and shoes. He had a cellphone and some cash on his person.

Construction of the residential building was in full swing around 11.30 a.m. when the ground floor unexpectedly and entirely caved in, trapping the victims.

Light injuries

As the news spread, the police and fire officials reached the spot and managed to rescue the children. Fortunately they suffered only light injuries, for which they were treated at a nearby hospital.

By the time the rescue team could locate the man trapped underneath the debris, it was too late. After a prolonged operation, it reached him by drilling through a concrete slab.

Chief Fire Officer K.V. Ramesh, who led the rescue operations, said poor quality material had been used in the construction. The structural design of the building was also flawed, he added.

There was panic among the rescue personnel as the building shook, forcing the operation to be suspended for a brief while. The team swiftly placed poles and bricks to prevent the collapse of the unstable structure. It also evacuated neighbouring buildings, besides disconnecting power supply to the area. Police officials present on the spot said a case will be booked against the building owner Mohan Naik, a businessman who owns a bottle cap manufacturing facility on the adjacent piece of land. Police said action will also be taken against the contractor of the building, who was not found on the spot.

Police Inspector B.N. Manjunath said the building will have to be razed as early as possible as it posed a threat to the surrounding structures.

A mother’s grief

All this while there were scenes of high emotion as Sabanna’s mother, Mahadevi, collapsed in grief believing her son was dead.

Ms. Mahadevi, who usually works along with her son, was at a different worksite on Wednesday. She rushed to Garudacharipalya and waited in agony even as she was consoled by the police and fire force personnel.

At one point, when told (later it happily proved to be a mistake), her son had died, this migrant from Ramasandra in Yadgir district in north Karnataka fainted.

At the end of the day, when the rescue operations ceased for the night, it was a mystery where Sabanna was.

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