Dongri building collapse: Family members perish, kin untraceable -- Tragic tales emerge from debris
(PTI Photo/Mitesh Bhuvad)

The collapse of a residential building Tuesday in the congested Dongri area has once again put the focus on Mumbai's stressed infrastructure. Every year, the financial capital sees instances of building collapse, foot overbridge accidents and other life-threatening but preventable incidents.

The four-storey residential structure in Dongri in south Mumbai caved in shortly before noon, killing at least 14 people and trapping more than 40 people under the debris. The injured were immediately taken to the Sir Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy (JJ) Hospital for the treatment. This was the latest addition in the list of such tragedies in the Mumbai metropolitan area which is replete with tales of sheer negligence and apathy by authorities tasked with overseeing development and maintenance of buildings and infrastructure assets.

The building was unauthorised, officials of the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) said, adding it was not under its supervision. It stood behind the 100-year-old Kesarbai building which is under MHADA's jurisdiction and already vacated because of its condition, the officials said. The difficult access to the site prevented ambulances and earth movers from being deployed, and rescue workers, including residents, used bare hands to remove concrete chunks, door frames and household items. Ambulances had to be parked some 50 metres away.

Here are some tragic tales which emerged from debris:

1. Wife and son untraceable

Nawab Shamani, one of the people who was injured in the Dongri building collapse, was admitted to hospital and had no idea where his wife and son were. "My mother is seriously injured and other family members, including my wife and son, are still untraceable," Nawab Shamani, from his hospital bed in a voice that is a mixture of pain and anguish, told the PTI.

Shamani, who works in Delhi, was visiting his extended family. While resting on a bed in state-run J J Hospital, Shamani, who is in his 30s, said he could only recall that he was sleeping in a flat in the ill-fated building and suddenly heard a loud thud.

"Next thing I remember is I am lying on a hospital bed with some injuries to my head and a hand," he said. What worries the young man more is that even after seven hours after the mishap, his wife Sana and son Ibrahim are still untraceable. "My mother is seriously injured but she is out of danger. I have informed authorities about my family members but have received no information from them about their whereabouts so far. They are still untraceable even around 6-7 hours after the tragedy," Shamani told the PTI.

2. Double tragedy in the family

While Shamani was searching his wife and son, the Shaikh family, who resided in Kesarbai building which collapsed on Tuesday, was suffering from a double tragedy. The 25-year-old mother of two children, Sabiya Nasir Shaikh, lost her life when she went to the kitchen to make tea. Her father-in-law, Abdul Sattar Kalu Shaikh, who was one of the committee members of the local Abdul Rehman dargah, also succumbed to the head injuries he received as he was in the midst of some work near the kitchen. “He felt a tremor and shouted out but it was too late,” Shoaib Ahmed, a relative of the Shaikhs told the Free Press Journal.

3. One injured while rescuing others

Imran Husain Kalwaniya (30), who resides opposite Kesaribai building, heard a loud boom and saw the building crumble right before his eyes. Without any second thought, Imran ran down the stairs of his building to help those affected by the tragedy. While he was helping he suffered injuries. “I wasted no time to rush to the spot so that I could be of some help. After lifting the debris, I managed to save the life of a baby stuck under the debris. I also managed to save a man who was gasping for air as he was buried under some bricks,” Imran told the Free Press Journal.

4. Deceased UP brothers had come to Mumbai to overcome mother’s loss

So far 14 people have been killed in Dongri building collapse. Out of these 14, two brothers, who had come from Uttar Pradesh after mother’s death, lost their life. According to the Hindustan Times, 20-year-old Zuber Mansoor Salmani, and his brother Muzamil (15) who lost their lives in Tuesday’s mishap were residents of Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh. The duo had lost their mother around five months ago and their father Mansoor had brought them to Mumbai to visit their aunt Firdoz Salmani, who resided in the Dongri building so that they could overcome their grief. On Tuesday, after the building collapsed, Muzamil’s body was among the third to be pulled out of the debris, while Salmani’s body was found later.

5. Man hunts for missing wife and two sons

In another tragic incident, a man named Rashid Ali, who runs a workshop of readymade garments in the locality, stood outside the casualty gate of Sir JJ Hospital, expecting to find his wife and two sons. Shabbir Ali, Rashid’s brother, told the Hindustan Times, that Rashid had left for work on Tuesday morning, leaving behind his family. But until evening, there were no traces of the trio. Rashid’s family stayed on rent on the ground floor of the four-storeyed building in Dongri which collapsed on Tuesday. While Rashid’s wife is in her 20s, his sons are aged five and seven. Rashid had brought his wife to Mumbai from Uttar Pradesh (UP) two months ago to seek medical treatment for her.

Lucky escape

Woman rescued after rescuers spot golden ring

The fire brigade and NDRF rescued Zinat Rehman Salmani (23) from the debris after a one-and-a-half-hour operation. She was one of the residents trapped in the debris for more than two hours. As luck would have it, a kid was extricated from the rubble and the volunteers were about to retreat when the golden glitter drew their attention, reported the Free Press Journal. She was trapped under iron beams, wooden door, and an LPG cylinder. After cutting through the iron beams and removing the debris using hydraulic cutters, spreader and power tools, Salmani was rescued. To ensure she remained dehydrated throughout, she was given water through the debris and the NDRF and fire brigade officers spoke to her to boost her morale. According to the authorities, Rehman’s rescue was one of the most difficult operations of this mishap. Before pulling her out to safety, the authorities had pulled out a child from the debris.

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