Thane building collapse: Death toll mounts to 52, 2 officials suspended

Last Updated: Fri, Apr 05, 2013 15:52 hrs

Thane: More bodies were pulled out of the massive debris of the seven-storey illegal under-construction building that collapsed here taking the death toll to 52 today in the mishap in which a deputy municipal commissioner and senior police inspector were suspended.

Heartbreaking tales like a male survivor losing 13 of his family members unfolded, as rescuers armed with sensor-fitted equipment still looked for survivors and bodies in the debris of bricks, mortar and twisted steel, a day after the collapse at Shil-Phata in Daighar in Mumbra.

The death toll has gone up to 52 while 53 were injured in the incident, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said, replying to a discussion on the buidling collapse in the Legislative Assembly.

Chavan told the House that an additional chief secretary level enquiry has been ordered.

The dead included nine women and 11 children, Thane Civic Corporation sources said.

The injured have been admitted to hospitals in Thane, Kalwa and Mumbra and the seriously injured were shifted to JJ and Sion Hospitals in Mumbai.

A case has been registered against builders Salil and Khalil Jamadar under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of IPC, Thane Commissioner of Police K P Raghuvanshi said, adding the two were absconding.

Chavan, who visited the site of the building collapse, said the deputy municipal commissioner concerned and senior police inspector have been suspended.

Alok Awasthi, Commandant of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), which has been pressed into service to assist the local police and civic administration in rescue efforts, said 59 persons had been pulled out alive but some more survivors could still be trapped under the debris.

Awasthi said though he was not an engineer, the poor quality of construction was primarily responsible for the tragedy.

"I am not an engineer or a building expert but poor quality of construction and material, besides non-adherence to construction norms for high-rise building has caused this tragedy," Awasthi said.

The structure, which according to locals had come up in just two months, had come down crashing in a heap around 6.30 pm yesterday in one of worst building collapses in Maharashtra.

Cranes were being used to remove the rubble, floor-by-floor, to trace the survivors with the help of life detector sensors which could pick up signals from possible survivors from 70 metre deep, Awasthi said.

State-of-the-art equipment fitted with thermal cameras were being inserted into the wreckage after making holes to locate survivors and extricate them with gas cutters, said Awasthi, whose team of 90 men is working round-the-clock, at the scene of the incident.

The Chief Minister was in for a surprise when some of the survivors at Chhatrapati Shivaji Memorial Hospital at Kalwa told him that they were living in the building for free as the builders were using them as shield against demolition in case civic authorities decided to pull it down for lack of clearances.

The occupants were to have vacated the building once full payment had been received from the original owners.

The building, which turned into a graveyard in a jiffy, snuffed out dreams and lives, including that of an unborn.

Imran Siddiqui, 37, had come from Delhi with dream of a better life knowing little that all his hopes would die a premature death. He lost his wife Shakila, who was eight months pregnant, to the tragedy.

He lived in the ill-fated structure with his wife and around 15 of his cousins, 12 of whom are dead.

Horrifying scenes were witnessed at Chhatrapati Shivaji Memorial Hospital when Shakila's body was brought in with the foetus portruding from her belly.

The tragedy has left Imran so shocked that he was unable to remember the names of his relatives who perished.

"Hamare to sabhi log chale gaye. Ma, baap bhai behan, and bibi bhi. Muje kuch madad karo naa," (I have lost my entire family including my wife...Please help me) Siddqui urged Chavan when visited the patients.

"Aapko toh malum hai. Meri bibi peth se thi aur woh bacche ke sathi chali gai is hadse me," (My wife was carrying...This mishap has taken away both my wife and child), he said.

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