|Fire fighters look for survivors under the debris in Mumbai on Saturday. (AFP)
Mumbai, Sept. 28: Three months ago, the local councillor claims, she had written to civic officials that the ground-floor tenant had illegally built a mezzanine floor and removed “four to five pillars”.
The administration acted today and arrested Ashok Mehta — after the five-storey, 33-year-old building had collapsed and killed at least 58 people in Mazgaon, Mumbai.
Ironically, the civic body owned the building which it is being accused of failing to repair or protect, and whose top four floors housed the quarters of Class III and IV civic employees.
Not all the victims are Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation staff or their family members, though, because some of the families had sublet the flats.
Councillor Yamini Jadhav of the Shiv Sena and her husband Yashwant, the previous councillor, say the civic administration ignored repeated warnings from them over the past 13 years.
The early complaints were about the need for urgent repairs to the rundown building; the latest about the “renovation and alterations” by decorator Mehta, 45, to whom the civic body had leased the ground floor to use as his office-cum-warehouse.
Yashwant showed The Telegraph a purported copy of his wife’s letter to civic officials about Mehta’s constructions. “But no action was taken. Now 50 people have lost their lives,” he said.
Mehta has been remanded in police custody till Tuesday. He has been booked for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, among other charges.
Municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte had said yesterday that the building had been classified “C2B”, which means it needed major structural repairs but not evacuation. He said the civic body would probe the collapse.
Among the dead are 29 men, 28 women and a four-year-old girl. Thirty-three injured have been admitted to hospital, an NDRF commandant said.