At least 16 have died after a 117-year-old building in Mumbai collapsed on August 31st, 2017.
Mumbai, often touted as the financial capital of India, was left paralyzed after heavy rainfall that brought the city to a stand-still. Roads were heavily flooded and led to the disruption of the city’s rail links. At least six persons have been killed as a result of the rainfall. This included a lawyer and a doctor.
The city in the recent years has been witness to multiple deadly building collapses. In 2013, a residential block crashed and resulted in the deaths of 60 people.
A few weeks ago, another building in Ghatkopar, Mumbai collapsed. A four-storey building, the crash led to the deaths of 17 people including a three-month-old baby.
The reason for the collapse of multiple buildings in Mumbai has often been attributed to bad construction, poor quality materials or old buildings.
The Arsiwala building that collapsed on August 31st was located in the city’s famous and bustling Bhendi Bazaar area. The Mumbai police received a call at 8.40am that structure had crashed. At least 16 people have died and 34 including rescue workers have been injured. Authorities believe that the number of fatalities is likely to increase as rescue efforts are still underway and some are still trapped inside.
Amina Sheikh a resident of the Bhendi Bazaar area said, “There was a massive bang. We couldn't see anything due to the dust and smoke. Once the dust settled, we realized it was a building collapse.”
Reports note that over 200 rescue workers are at the venue with hard hats sifting through the ruins to rescue as many people as possible. There was a total of nine families that were living in the higher floors of the building and the structure also housed six warehouses.
A fire control official said, "Rescue operations are already underway. We have sent 12 fire brigade vehicles to the spot. Ambulances are also ready to take the victims to the hospital."
Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis has announced ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh for the kin of those who died.
Mumbai’s city municipal corporation had already listed this building as one of the 791 structures in the city that pose a threat. In 2011, a housing trust had declared this building unsafe. The trust had been looking to develop the area. It had advised families to move out of the building. Although it had offered alternative accommodation, only seven families had moved out by 2014. According to residents, this was because they hadn’t been provided details on the alternate housing plans.
Experts believe that the rains and the heavy flooding may have played a role in destabilizing the building leading to its collapse. The government has said that an investigation will be launched to understand the real cause for the collapse. It has also announced that from now on, residents living in buildings declared unsafe will be forcibly evicted to avoid such tragedies in the future.
Our assessment is that the fatalities caused due to the building’s collapse could have easily been avoided as the structure had already been declared unsafe. It is now imperative for the government to ensure that nobody is living in any other building in the city that might be at risk of crashing.