Recipe for a disaster

Mumbai: A 25-foot high wall, bordering a plot of vacant land in Pimpripada, Malad (E) came crashing down on the makeshift shelters of labourers after the steady downpour on Monday night, killing 21 people and injuring 78. The incident occurred around 12.30am and people living in the huts nearby were trapped underneath. According to some civic officials, the wall belongs to the forest department but some locals claim it was built by the Mahindra Company. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials claim that the wall was over 35 years old and had been reconstructed over a month ago.

The additional municipal commissioner Ashwini Joshi said, "We will inquire into the incident. The wall was a compound wall for a BMC-owned reservoir. The land around the area is forest land, and illegal hutments were settled on the land. The wall fell on these illegal hutments in the middle of the night when everyone was asleep, and hence the number of casualties is high." Soon after the disaster, a team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Mumbai Fire Brigade and local police was deployed to the spot,along with sniffer dogs. An officer from the Kurar police station stated that a case of accidental death has been registered and a probe was on to ascertain the ownership of the plot.

Residents have alleged that they are neglected by the authorities for the most part and it was only during elections that the MPs and MLAs bothered to come around.They further stated, for years now, the government had been promising them rehabilitation, but the promise is yet to materialise. “We slumdwellers are the ones who vote and yet, we suffer the most. Authorities must consider our rehabilitation at the earliest,” said Mahindra Singh, a local. Witnesses claimed the water came gushing down like a tsunami and washed away everything in its path, including 60 huts and 78 lives.

“Rains lashed down on the wall, until it collapsed under the pressure,” said Shiv Pawar, who had just stepped out of his house to fetch water from the municipal tap and claimed to have witnessed the disaster. “The leaders have done nothing for us, they only show their faces during the time of elections,” said Suresh Patil, another resident.

A family of six was crushed to death under the debris. The family was sleeping when the incident took place. The couple, Laxman Nanavare, a labourer who was specially-abled and his wife, Ranobai, who worked as a domestic help, died on the spot, along with two of their children, Deepa,12, Priya, 12, and Parsuram,

Fifteen-year-old Sanchita, the oldest of the Nanavare children is trapped under the debris. She was heard asking for water and throughout the rescue operation she was given oxygen but it was too late before rescue workers reached her. “The officials were not efficient in carrying out the operations, she could have survived had she been pulled out earlier,” alleged her brother Anshuman.

Usha Jadhav, 35, who survived the disaster, lost her father-in-law, Datta Jadhav, and a distant relative, Komal. “Fifteen members of our family were asleep, including my husband and 6-year-old son, when the water flooded in,” she recalled. Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis tweeted about the incident and announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the kin of the deceased. Search operations were under way at the time of going to press.

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