At least six people have been killed, 22 injured and dozens trapped after a five-storeyed building collapsed in the Dock Yard area of southeast Mumbai early on Friday morning at around 6 am.
News of the building collapse brought local neigbours and distraught relatives of those residing in the building to the site where volunteers immediately tried to rescue people trapped under the flattened cement structure.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s office issued a statement that all rescue agencies were being deployed to extricate the victims. A 65-member team from the National Disaster Response Force, 12 fire engines and a Fire Brigade team, several student and rescue volunteers, four ambulances, rescue vans as well as cranes to pull out the concrete structures were put in place to hasten the work, said the statement.
However, rescue team officials at the site said that removal of debris was a delicate job and had to be manually cleared with the aim of pulling out people alive. To add to their problems, rescue efforts was hampered by intermittent rains.
The civic-owned building was occupied by mostly employees of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) that had declared the dilapidated structure as unsafe and requiring urgent repairs and recommended shifting out families living there.
“There were 28 rooms on the four floors, of which 22 were occupied by civic employees and their families, besides a godown on the ground floor where several labourers were living,” said Suresh Jadhav, a former municipal corporator from the area.
“The delay in shifting out the residents to transit camps and carrying out repairs has led to the avoidable tragedy,” he said.
Five of the casualties were reported from Sir J.J. Hospital where 15 injured people were admitted while one person died in Nair Hospital. Dr T.P. Lahane, Dean, J.J. Hospital, said the injured included a pregnant woman and a two-year-old boy.
Mumbai Mayor Sunil Prabhu said that action will be taken against those found guilty but the priority at the moment was rescue operations.
Leader of the opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council Vinod Tawde of the Bharatiya Janata Party said that how many more buildings should be allowed to collapse until the government wakes up to taking speedy decisions. Though the BMC conducts a survey every year of the most unsafe buildings in the city, with 959 declared unsafe this year, there were no steps taken to shift the families to transit camps and protect them from impending tragedies.