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Landing collapse traps residents

Firemen rescue Rajlakshmi Bera, who was stranded on the first floor of the building after the collapse of a staircase landing. (Mayukh Sengupta)

A portion of a staircase landing between the ground and first floors of a Salt Lake building collapsed around 9.30pm on Wednesday, leaving two families stranded for more than 12 hours till firemen rescued them.

The incident occurred at a central government housing complex in CC Block, where most of the buildings are in a shambles. Residents — Group D and C staff of BSNL and the post and telegraph department — alleged that the buildings have not been repaired for over 10 years.

Built in 1975, and popularly known as P&T Quarters, the complex has 976 flats in 67 buildings and is maintained by the post and telegraph department and BSNL.

The four-storeyed building whose landing collapsed — G II — is one of the 47 buildings maintained by BSNL. It has 14 flats, of which all but four have been abandoned.

Of the four flats still in use, two are on the ground floor and one each is on the first and second floors.

“I was standing on the balcony of my flat when I suddenly heard a thud. I rushed out and saw the staircase landing between the ground and first floors had collapsed. The building has only one staircase and with the landing gone, we were left stranded,” said Rajlakshmi Bera, who lives at a first-floor flat in G II.

Bera called up husband Sashibhusan, a driver with BSNL, who was on night shift on Wednesday. He called up some neighbours, who tried to get her down by manoeuvring through the sliver of the landing still intact. But Rajlakshmi and her children, a girl who studies in Class IX and a four-year-old boy, could not be brought down that way.

The neighbours alerted the maintenance department employees in the complex but they said nothing could be done till Thursday morning.

After Bera’s husband returned home on Thursday, he got in touch with local Trinamul councillor Tulsi Sinha, who called up the fire brigade. The firemen brought Rajlakshmi and her children and an aged woman trapped on the second floor with the help of a ladder around 10.30am.

Bera, however, said the incident did not scare her as she was familiar with collapses and cave-ins inside the complex during the 13 years of her stay there. Damaged roof, broken beams, missing stairs and cracked facades are some of the common problems faced by the 350-odd families staying in the complex.

“Regular and thorough repairs could not be carried out over the past two years because of a funds crunch. Earlier, the buildings in the complex used to undergo annual maintenance regularly,” said Subhas Pal, the senior divisional engineer, civil, BSNL.

According to BSNL sources, the residents have to pay a monthly fee of Rs 260 for maintenance and water. Thirty per cent of their basic salary is deducted as house rent allowance.