Rescue operation ends; survivors still searching for their kin

A cup of tea with a friend was all Rammilan Vishwakarma, 40, thought of when he entered into the third floor flat of his friend Jamal. Almost ten minutes after, as he had just kept the cup down, finishing his tea, the building collapsed. Both the friends died immediately. Jamal’s mother was the only survivor, while seven others innocents from the same family died for no reason.

The rescue operations in Lucky Compound on Thane-Mahape Road in Mumbra ended on Saturday afternoon, almost 48 hours after the eight floors of the tower crumbled, killing 74 and injuring 61 others.

“It was a courtesy call from Vishwakarma, as both were in the same profession of driving goods truck. Who could have thought that this visit will be the last? Someone’s mistake has cost our family a huge blow,” said Rajesh Chowdhary, Vishwakarma’s brother-in-law, waiting outside the morgue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Hospital in Kalwa to collect the dead body.

Five-year-old Sandhya Rathod was admitted i to Thane Civil Hospital and from last two days he had not been able to open her eyes. According to the hospital staff, the amount of soil and sand that has gone inside her eyes makes her difficult to open them.

From the day she was admitted to the hospital, a social worker Josleen Soares has been nursing her and is trying desperately to find her parents.

“She calls me uncle and recognises me by touch. I was with her from last two nights and hospital administration has now barred me from meeting her. At first, they do not treat the patients properly and now want to stay me away from her,” he said, while talking to reporters outside the hospital.

Two of the builders responsible for the misery of these people, Jamil Qureishi and Salim Shaikh, were arrested on Saturday from Uttar Pradesh and Thane respectively. Thane Police Commissioner confirmed their arrest saying the authorities registered a case of culpable homicide against both of them.

Meanwhile Dipak Chavan, Deputy Commissioner of Thane Municipal Commissioner (TMC), who was suspended by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Friday, found himself in to yet another controversy after he allegedly beat up the reporter and cameraman of a news channel.

“We were standing outside his house for his reaction, when he stormed out and started beating us. He grabbed the mike and camera from us and kept inside his house,” said Sonu Kanaujia, reporter from the news channel.

Nearby building razed

While the rescue operations ended on Saturday afternoon, the decision to raze all other structures inside the compound was received with minor protest from the locals. “We have to raze the neighbouring building as it has already tilted. The other structures in the compound have to be removed as they are illegal,” said R.A. Rajeev, TMC Municipal Commissioner.

“Illegal buildings have been coming up in the city from many years and 90 per cent of the buildings in Mumbra are illegal. As the number of people increases, they put another floor on the existing one. This has become difficult to stop,” he said.

Hasina Sheikh, a 10-year-old girl, admitted in the Thane Civil Hospital has been asking the whereabouts of her parents to Abdul Rahim Sheikh, one of the social workers helping the victims, ever since she regained her consciousness. “She was studying when the building collapsed and now desperately wants to see her family,” he said.

“We have traced her father, who is injured but safe now. Her mother is dead, but there is no one to claim her body right now as father is in the hospital. I don’t know how to tell someone that her mother is dead,” he said.