Mumbai, Sept. 27: At least 13 persons died when a four-storey Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation building mostly housing civic employees caved in today in the city’s seventh big collapse in six months.
Most residents of the 33-year-old building, categorised as one “needing urgent repairs but not in an extremely dangerous condition” in a pre-monsoon BMC survey, were asleep when it went down in the Mazgaon Docks area around 5.50am.
Dozens were still trapped in the debris till late this evening, with the toll rising every hour since 6pm as rescue teams penetrated the rubble.
“There were 21 families in the building, between 80 to 100 people. We have rescued more than 40. Another 50-60 people could be still trapped,” said National Disaster Rescue Force (NDRF) commandant Alok Avasthy as rain slowed the operations.
Avasthy, leading a team of 200 that included fire brigade personnel, dubbed it “a pancake collapse like in Mumbra earlier this year”, referring to a similar tragedy this April on the city’s fringes in which 75 people perished. Some among them were from Bengal.
At least two toddlers less than two years old were among the 43 pulled out alive this evening, offering hope to the relatives of those still trapped.
Constructed in 1980 and located in Mazgaon Koliwada near the docks, the building housed civic employees who work in the city’s municipal markets and some tenants.
According to BMC sources, the structure was classified “C 2 (B)” in a customary pre-monsoon civic survey of old buildings.
“The classification indicated the building required urgent repairs but was not in an extremely dangerous condition. Whether the building was in a weak condition or whether it collapsed due to structural modifications is being investigated,” municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte said.
Residents and their relatives alleged that the ground floor had been rented out to a decorator, Jain Decorators, as a storeroom and structural modifications by the owner had triggered the collapse.
Sunil Prabhu, who heads the Shiv Sena-run BMC as the mayor, said the allegation would be probed.
“This building needed urgent repairs. The budget allocation had been made and the developer appointed. I don’t know why there was a delay in the repairs,” Prabhu said as he announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh for the families of the dead.
Late this evening, the BMC lodged a complaint against developer Ashok Kumar, who owns the decorator firm, for making unauthorised modifications.
It also ordered a fresh survey of buildings rated “C 2 A” and “C 2 B”, the category under which the building fell. “C 2 A” is higher on the risk scale, denoting extremely dangerous buildings that need to be evacuated immediately.