Two persons from a group of men who had taken shelter under the balcony of an old dilapidated three-storey building on Rabindra Sarani during a sudden downpour on Saturday evening died after a portion of the balcony collapsed.
Two others had to be admitted to the Calcutta Medical College and Hospital with injuries after they were rescued from the debris under which all of them were trapped.
Police identified the deceased as Mohammed Toufik and Rajib Gupta. Twenty-year-old Toufik hails from Gorachand Road near Park Circus and was among those trapped under the debris along with 47-year-old Rajib Gupta. Gupta hails from KP Shah Street in Dum Dum. While Toufik died at the Calcutta Medical College, Gupta died at the Vishuddhananda Saraswati hospital. “Both the victims were declared brought dead at the two hospitals,” a senior police officer said.
The injured were identified as Pradip Das, 45, of Saptagram of North Dum Dum and Subhas Hazra, 37, of Goghat in Hooghly. The condition of both were critical, doctors at the Calcutta Medical College said.
Two motorcycles and a scooter have been recovered from the debris on the ground floor of the building, which stood in a dilapidated condition for several years according to some local residents.
Eyewitnesses told police that around 5.16pm, a part of the top-floor balcony of the building near Mechhua Patty in central Calcutta suddenly gave away and chunks of concrete came crashing down on the road along with bricks and some iron railings. The area was teeming with hundreds of people who were moving in and out of the Mechhua market nearby in Burrabazar when the incident took place. It was raining heavily and several pedestrians had taken shelter under rows of buildings including the one, whose balcony collapsed, some of the bystanders told the police.
Following the collapse, some local businessmen rushed to rescue those who lay trapped under concrete chunks before fire tenders arrived.
“Some of the injured were shifted to the Calcutta Medical College and the rest to the Vishuddhananda Saraswati hospital,” said a senior officer of the fire and emergency services department.
A section of local residents have told the police that the building was several decades old and lacked maintenance.
Saturday’s house collapse comes within days of a similar incident which took place in Ahiritola in north Calcutta when a portion of a dilapidated house gave away on the morning of September 29.
Among the dead were a three-year-old girl and her 48-year-old grandmother.
Senior engineers of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s (CMC) building department said one of the city’s major challenges was old and dilapidated buildings which continue to stand despite being declared “dangerous”.
According to the CMC records there are at least 3,000 such “dangerous” buildings that need to be pulled down or repaired immediately. Around a 1,000 of them were in “extremely distressed” condition. Most of these buildings were located in north and central Calcutta with tenants mainly occupying them.
While declaring a building “dangerous”, the CMC serves a notice on the owner, which is also a permission to start repairs. But usually the owner chooses to look the other way. And the CMC does nothing.