Mumbai: At least 12 people, two of them children, were killed and many others injured after a four-storey residential building at Damodar Park on Lal Bahadur Shastri Marg in Ghatkopar, Sai Darshan, collapsed on Tuesday morning. Search and rescue operations were still on at the time of filing this report and the death toll may rise.
While civic chief Ajoy Mehta has asked a two-member committee to submit a report on the disaster within two weeks, the police have filed an FIR against local Shiv Sena leader Sunil Sitap, who runs a nursing home on the ground floor of the 35-year-old building. Locals told Free Press Journal that renovation work inside the nursing home was the cause of the collapse. “There was renovation work being carried out in the building. There was a nursing home, named Sitap Nursing Home, on the ground floor, which is owned by Sunil Sitap who is a local Shiv Sena leader. A meeting of residents was also called last night opposing this renovation work,” said a resident of the building that came down.
There are allegations that the nursing home authorities did not seek an NOC from the BMC for renovation work. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited the tragedy site at night, assuring locals that no one would be spared. “The government is providing all help to those injured and the people who have lost their homes,” the CM told reporters on the spot. BMC Mayor and other senior officials had also visited the place earlier in the day to supervise rescue operations.
Eyewitnesses said that the building came down with a huge thud. Ratna Khatwa, who lives in a flat opposite the one where tragedy struck, said, “I was looking out of the window when a heard a loud sound and saw plumes of dust and smoke.” Manisha Kothari, another local, said, “I was looking for my son’s school bus when I heard a loud bang and the building in front of me disappeared.” Vandhana Singh, who lives in the building that collapsed, had a lucky escape. She stays on the third floor with her husband and son, both of whom had gone out.
She, too, left her home to buy medicines. “A few minutes after I left the compound, the building collapsed,” she said. Rescue officials say that some more people could be trapped under the debris. Rutvi Shah and Nirali Ajmera are still missing. Pritesh Shah, father of Rutvi, says he is praying to God that her daughter comes out safely. To add to the poignancy of the tragedy, among the dead is a three-month-old baby. She was taken out from the debris by a rescue team.