Mumbai building collapse death toll goes up to 13, search on for survivors

The official said his team members had been told that there were few customers at an eatery situated in the ground floor and no one knew the exact numbers.(Kunal Patil/HT Photo). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.


MUMBAI, Jul 17, 2019, Hindustan Times. The death toll from the collapse of a four-storey building in south Mumbai’s Dongri rose to 13 on Wednesday, with 10 injured, officials said, as rescue operations continued to find others trapped in the rubble, reported the Hindustan Times.

Out of the 10 people, who were injured after the illegal extension of a 100-year-old Kesarbai building gave way, one is a fireman involved in the rescue operation and another has been sent home.

The extension of Kesarbai building, which housed 16 families and four shops on the ground floor, caved-in at around 11.40am, causing tremors in several dilapidated buildings in the low-income neighbourhood. The incident highlighted the decaying infrastructure of India’s crumbling financial capital that is corroded by poor oversight and monsoon showers.

Chief fire officer P Rahangdale said manyadjoining buildings were rendered unstable and had to be evacuated. Some part of Kesarbai building was left standing after the collapse.

Cramped and crowded lanes leading up to the site made it challenging for rescue equipment to reach the building, added Rahangdale. Rescue personnel were seen clearing rubble and cutting through iron girders by hand, and taking the help of local residents, who had formed a human chain, to pass the debris.

There was no clarity on the number of people stuck under the rubble, which was yet to be fully cleared.

Building collapses are common in Mumbai during the June-September monsoon season, when heavy showers lash India’s largest city and weaken the foundation of already decrepit structures.

Earlier this month, multiple wall collapses killed 30 people. This was the deadliest collapse of a building since September 2017, when the 117-year-old Husaini building crumbled in Bhendi Bazaar, killing 33 people.

Ageing infrastructure, poor planning and a maze of conflicting by-laws, building codes and jurisdiction mean that no single authority is responsible for the upkeep of structures, leading to a cycle of accusation after each tragedy.

Within minutes of the collapse, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) clarified the building was owned by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA). It also confirmed that in July 2017, the BMC brought to the notice of Mumbai Building Repair and Reconstruction Board’s (MBRR) — a wing of MHADA — that the building was dilapidated and unfit for habitation.

A senior BMC officer told HT, “There is no doubt that the collapsed Kesarbai building is owned by MHADA.”

Hours later, Vinod Ghosalkar, chief of the MHADA repair board, denied that the agency owned the building.

“So the responsibility of evacuating it or taking action against any persons for its collapse does not rest with MHADA. This is an illegal building, even though it is in the middle of MHADA colony in Dongri,” he said.

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the building was roughly 100 years old and illegal, promising that an inquiry will be ordered.

“My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted earlier in the day. “I hope the injured recover soon.”

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