Thane: At least 16 people were killed, including seven minors, and 20 injured, with more feared trapped, when part of the ground plus three-storey Jilani building collapsed in Dhaman Naka of the Narpoli area in Bhiwandi early on Monday morning.
The dead included minors aged 2-14 years and adults up to 75 years of age. The incident occurred around 3.40am. Many of the injured were shifted to the Kalwa and IGM hospitals in Bhiwandi, while others were shifted to hospitals in Mumbai for further medical treatment.
"Until now, 32 people have been rescued from the debris, of whom 20, including a 4-year-old child are alive, while seven of the 12 dead were minors," informed Santosh Kadam, chief of the regional disaster management cell.
"Following the alert call, rescue operations were begun by the regional disaster management cell (RDMC) and the disaster response force from Thane and the National Disaster Response Force (TDRF and NDRF). A team of 15 TDRF and 30 NDRF officials are at the site, carrying rescue operations," said RDMC chief Santosh Kadam.
According to officials, the building, consisting of 40 flats, was a 43-year-old structure occupied by around 150 residents and had been served with a notice by the civic body in February, having been classified as dangerous. Anwar Salmani, 54, one of the building residents managed to escape safely with his wife and four of his children. However, his eldest son, 25, sustained serious injuries.
"I have been living here for the last 20 years, with my family. Yesterday (Sunday), late in the night, my daughter alerted us about some unusual sounds. We immediately ran out of the building, and safely escaped, but a part of the structure fell on my son as we neared the exit. He has sustained serious head injuries. My wife suffered minor injuries and is undergoing treatment in Bhiwandi, while other members are stable," said Salmani. The son is on ventilator at J J Hospital in Mumbai.
Akhif Khan, 18, a local who lives close to the Jilani building and is a relative of the Shaikh family residing on the first floor of the building said, "We heard a huge sound, it was that of the building crashing. The locals immediately rushed to rescue people trapped under the debris. My relatives, a family of six, too were stuck under the debris. They were all rescued, except for a son aged 20 and a child with special needs, who are still missing."
According to civic officials, other buildings in the vicinity have also been evacuated, as a precautionary measure. The residents of these buildings have been shifted to nearby madrasas, mosques and community halls in Patel Complex.
Rescue operations, which began in the early morning hours are still underway and likely to extend into Tuesday, as more people are feared trapped under the debris.
"The operations may continue till tomorrow (Tuesday), as more than 30 to 35 people are suspected to be trapped under the debris. Cutters and hammers were pressed into service for the job. However, the narrow lanes are hindering smooth operations. On top of that, the heavy showers in the evening made matters worse," said Ashish Kumar, deputy commandant, NDRF.
"We are hoping the rest of the building does not collapse, as it will make matters even more challenging. Hence, we are trying our best to rescue those trapped as quickly as possible," said NDRF officials on the spot.
Commissioner directs survey of dangerous structures:
In the wake of the tragedy, the Bhiwandi civic chief has directed a committee, headed by the additional municipal commissioner, to inspect all the illegal and dangerous structures in the city and submit a report within a week.
"The building was listed under dangerous structures in the city. Residents of the building had already been issued a notice to vacate the building in February. However, despite warning notices, people continued to live there. An FIR has been registered against the owner of the building," said Bhiwandi-Nizampur Municipal Commissioner Pankaj Ashiya.
"Besides, a committee headed by the additional commissioner has been formed to carry out a survey of other such dangerous structures in the city, to avoid the recurrence of such tragedies in the future. The committee will submit its report within a week, after which further action will be announced," added Ashiya. Thane Guardian Minister Eknath Shinde visited the spot, to take stock of the situation. He informed that a probe would be carried out and announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the families of victims.