Many more feared to be trapped in debris; ironically, building is owned by municipal corporation

Thirteen persons were killed and 25 injured when a four-storey building in south Mumbai collapsed on Friday morning. Several more are feared trapped in debris.

Ironically, the 33-year-old building at Dockyard Road was owned by Mumbai’s municipal corporation, which is meant to monitor weak buildings. The building, which housed 22 families, was located in the Mazagaon area. Most of the occupants were conservancy staff working in municipal markets.

“At first, I thought it was an earthquake. My room reverberated. But suddenly, there was smoke. I got down and couldn’t see anything in the darkness. It took me a while to realise that the building next to ours had fallen,” said Ramesh Patil.

Those trapped inside the building had to be extricated through mounds of rubble and concrete. Seventy-year-old Paluben Solanki, whose son’s family was trapped, looked devastated. “I just want my son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren to be safe. I don’t want anything else in life. If they come out alive, we will all help in hospital expenses,” she said.

The fire brigade sent 12 engines, four ambulances and two rescue vans for rescue operations. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams from Mumbai and Talegaon joined in the efforts.

This is the second major building collapse here this year. In June, 10 people died when Aftab Mansion, a residential building, collapsed. In a survey before the monsoon, the civic body categorised the building “in need of urgent repair”. The municipality owns 567 such buildings in the city, which include hospitals, schools, offices and staff quarters. Additionally, there are 88 buildings which have been placed in the list of extremely dilapidated category. The municipality’s Planning and Design Department was reportedly in the process of inviting tenders for the building repairs.

“We were going to take up the building for repairs after monsoon. Usually buildings belonging to this category become strong after repairs. We will now conduct an inquiry to see if there was a problem with the quality of construction,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner M.M. Adtani.

Angry residents blamed the municipality for not acting in time. “How can the building collapse all at once without any indication? It’s the municipality’s duty to check the buildings and give temporary accommodation if the building is dangerous,” said Jaisingh Jhala, whose sister was trapped inside along with her husband and three children.

The ground floor and basement of the building was reportedly leased to a wedding decorator. Until recently, a fish market was functioning there. Some of the residents alleged that the decorators had altered the building. “There were huge tables and stages that were being ferried to and from the ground floor. The entrance was not big enough, so the decorator had removed the beams,” said a resident from a neighbouring building.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation announced a compensation package of Rs, 2 lakh for families of the deceased.