A majority of victims were workers and hotel employees
Twelve people were buried alive when City Light, Secunderabad’s noted Irani hotel, collapsed on Monday morning. One person died of his injuries in hospital. Among the dead was the hotel owner’s son. Fifteen people were injured, one of them critically. The five-decade-old load-bearing structure, built with lime and mortar, crumbled around 6.45 a.m. on the busy R.P. Road. Most of the victims were labourers and hotel workers. The labourers were having their morning bun and tea.
Teams from the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) and police reached the site within minutes and tried their best to save lives. But they were ill-equipped. It was only after disaster management experts from the National Industrial Security Academy (NISA) arrived, several people could be taken out from debris.
GHMC Commissioner M.T. Krishna Babu said water seepage from a newly-built overhead tank on the ground plus one floor building and construction of brick kilns on the roof for making Ramzan delicacy ‘haleem’ weakened the structure. “The weight of brick kilns and the heat generated too might have damaged the building.”
Local people said a rolling shutter was fixed on the ground floor and two tractor-loads of bricks were sent to the first floor to construct more kilns in the last few days. “I was having tea with my friends when the ground seemed to have given away. The roof came down and we ran out,” said Shankar, daily-wage earner from Ghansmandi.
The building didn’t collapse at once. Initially, pieces of the kitchen roof on the ground floor started falling and within a few seconds a part of it collapsed, injuring four to five persons. A few pieces had fallen the previous night too but the tell-tale signs were ignored, said government officials. “There were nearly 50 persons inside, including customers and workers, who did take the debris falling seriously. Twenty minutes later, the entire building crashed except the wall facing the main road,” a policeman, who was the first to reach the spot, said.
Rescue operations were hampered by huge crowds, battery of media persons with their vans and visits by people’s representatives and VIPs. Realising that salvage operations could not be done without clearing the onlookers, police acted tough and in the process invited the wrath of the son of Marri Shashidhar Reddy, Sanathnagar MLA and National Disaster Management Authority vice-chairman, when he was asked to leave the spot.
Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy visited the site and called on the injured at Gandhi Hospital where some families of the victims raised slogans against him. Opposition leader N. Chandrababu Naidu also visited the site. He said the government had failed to ensure timely rescue operations and demolish dilapidated buildings. A criminal case has been registered against the hotel owner.