Onlookers at the site of the building collapse in Pandu on Wednesday. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, Feb. 20: A 15-year-old boy died this evening as an abandoned building of the Northeast Frontier Railway collapsed at Pandu here. The NFR has, however, declined to pay compensation to the family.
Eyewitnesses said Jiban Das, son of Krishna and Joymoti Das and a Class IV student of Subhash Nagar Public School which was closed because of the strike, was playing inside the two-storey building when a portion of it collapsed around 5pm.
“As soon as a portion of the building collapsed, we rushed to the spot as we had seen a few children playing there a while ago. But we could do nothing as the boy was buried under the debris. We brought him out with the help of an excavator that was being used in a nearby water supply project. He was unconscious and had received injuries on his head. We called the 108 ambulance which took him to the GMCH where he was declared dead.”
NFR public relations officer Nripen Bhattacharya told The Telegraph that there was no question of compensation.
“We cannot be held responsible if people enter an abandoned structure as this and a mishap occurs,” he said.
The other children who were playing with Jiban escaped unhurt.
The building, once used as a carriage and wagon depot, was abandoned in 1998.
It is situated adjacent to the railway tracks, which were earlier used to carry goods to Pandu port.
Now it is frequented by children living in the nearby areas, as there is no boundary wall around it.
Jiban’s father, a pandal-maker, stays with his family in a rented house at American Colony in Pandu, less than half-a-kilometre away from the building.
Debnath said, “The building is very old and the railway authorities should have either constructed a wall around it or put up a signboard with a warning. Children and young boys are often seen sitting under it”.
NFR officials said they had built a bamboo fence around the building which dates back to the sixties.
“But the bamboo was stolen. We had also put up a signboard, prohibiting any form of activity near the building. But that too was removed. The building, which was built in the mid sixties, collapsed today because thieves have from time to time been forking out bricks and rods from the structure, making it weak,” Bhattacharya said.
He, however, added, “We have decided to fence the place and make it a protected area”.
Asked why the NFR had not demolished the structure, he said they were planning to remove it but the mishap took place today.
Jiban’s father rushed to the GMCH while his mother Joymoti Das, who stayed at home, was inconsolable. “His school was closed because of the strike today. He left home around 4pm. Around 5pm, I got the news from neighbours,” she said.