Death toll in Mumbai building collapse rises to 13

Death toll in Mumbai building collapse rises to 13
NDRF personnel carry out rescue operation at the incident site after collapse of the four-storey Kesarbai building at Dongri in Mumbai, Tuesday. Photo: PTI

Mumbai: The death toll in a building collapse in south Mumbai's congested Dongri locality has risen to 13, the NDRF said on Wednesday, even as rescue and search operation from the rubble was still on.

"So far, 13 people, including six males, four females and three children have been declared dead, while nine have got injuries and getting medical treatment," Sachidanand Gawde, the PRO of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) battalion, told PTI.

Gawde said the search and rescue operations continued the whole night and was still on.

"It (search and rescue operations) will go on till the last piece of rubble is not removed from the spot," he said.

The official said his team members had been told that there were few customers at an eatery situated in the ground floor and no one knew the exact numbers. "So our job is still left to rescue those men," he said.

In a statement, Mumbai fire brigade chief P S Rahangdale said two kids -- one aged between six-eight and the other aged about four -- were rescued from under the debris by the fire fighters.

"Both kids were sent to Sir JJ hospital in 108 Ambulance, but they were declared dead," Rahangdale said, adding one fireman was also injured in the line of duty.

Mumbai police has made lightning arrangements to carry out rescue operation in night. It has so far registered an ADR into the mishap and will launch a detailed inquiry.

Death toll in Mumbai building collapse rises to 13
Rescue operations underway at Kesarbai building - a four-storey building that collapsed in south Mumbai's Dongri on Tuesday. Photo: IANS

An official from the BMC disaster management cell said three more bodies had been recovered early on Wednesday morning and had been sent to nearby hospital, and awaiting doctors report about them.

"The death toll likely to up further," he said.

The state government, has so far not announced compensation to the victims.

Local MLA Amin Patel will meet Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in the afternoon to demand a hefty compensation and speedy rehabilitation for the victims.

Mumbai needs enforcement of building safety norms: Experts

The accident in the congested Dongri area has once again put the focus on Mumbai's stressed infrastructure with experts and realtors calling for strict enforcement of safety norms and regular audits to avoid such tragedies in the future.

Every year, the financial capital sees instances of building collapse, foot overbridge accidents and other life- threatening but preventable incidents. The situation gets aggravated during the monsoon.

Dongri accident 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.

"Mumbai needs to urgently work on strengthening existing infrastructure even as it goes in for new infrastructure development," said Niranjan Hiranandani, president of Naredco, a national body of real estate developers.

Earlier this month, the city witnessed instances of wall collapse caused by the worst monsoon rains in a single day in 14 years, killing over 20 people.

Mumbai had received a record-breaking 400 mm of rainfall on the night of July 1, disrupting rail, road and air traffic and prompting officials to shut schools the next day.

In another incident, three people died when a school wall collapsed in Kalyan, 42km north of Mumbai. Besides, around 200 metres of an internal road in the area caved in, forcing 100 families to vacate two residential buildings.

Death toll in Mumbai building collapse rises to 13

"The instances of deaths caused by building collapses during monsoons have now become frequent in the last few years.

"Unfortunately, people continue to die, and India has so far failed to strictly enforce safety norms for high-rises in the country," said Ramesh Nair, CEO and Country Head, JLL India, a global real estate services firm.

"As opposed to the scenario witnessed in more developed countries, India lags on implementing tighter norms for the structural and fire safety for all kinds of buildings," said Nair.

He said a large section of the real estate development fraternity is now aware of these guidelines and follows necessary construction norms relating to natural disasters such as earthquake, water, fire and floods to make safer structures.

"However, there remains a section of unorganized builders who continue to flout structural safety norms. Law should strictly deal with them," Nair maintained.

At least six people were killed and 32 injured when a major portion of a foot overbridge near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) railway station in south Mumbai collapsed in March.

In July last year, the pedestrian section of the Gokhale bridge in suburban Andheri gave way, killing two persons and injuring three others.

"The basic requirement is to decongest existing overcrowded urban spaces by creating new cities in periphery areas with mass rapid transport linkages to the CBDs (central business districts), which will provide breathing space for overburdened and overworked infrastructure.

"We need to promote the idea of planned suburbs on the periphery of Mumbai to de-congest existing infrastructure and ensure ease of mobility," Hiranandani added.

After every such tragic incident, it is often seen that government agencies like the BMC, Mhada and Railways engage in blame game and pass the buck.

Mumbai Grahak Panchayat chairman Shirish Deshpande said such incidents are not a matter of blame game and there is an urgent need to look at them very seriously.

Every year before the monsoon, Mhada (Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority) and BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) release a list of dilapidated and dangerous buildings and issue eviction notices to occupants.

"But while doing so, they do not take into consideration where will the tenants go. We cannot continue living with this and passing the blame.

"With RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Authority) in place, we have asked the authorities from Mhada and the government to sit together and create a regulatory framework for redeveloping such structures in a time -bound manner," Deshpande added.

Ramesh Prabhu, founder-chairman, Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association, said the current infrastructure in Mumbai is not capable enough to hold the burgeoning population.

"On one hand we cannot stop the influx and on the other hand we are unable to provide adequate infrastructure and housing. This has resulted in mushrooming of slums," he said.

At the same time, there is no proper assessment or structural audits of the existing establishments, Prabhu said.

It is necessary for the government to take proactive steps in this regard or else such incidents will continue to recur with fatal consequences, he warned.

Prabhu said the state government, in a July 4 order, has asked the authorities to give priority to redevelopment to buildings which are declared dangerous for settlement.

"We now need to see how this is implemented," he said.

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