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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Vacant for 3 years, dangerous Bldg crashes, kills 7 Residents Had Evacuated Flats In 2010, Most Victims Were Vendors

 Avacant dilapidated building, allowed to stand for over three years as a dispute over conveyance and redevelopment dragged on, collapsed early on Saturday killing seven people who happened to be in its vicinity. 
    Piyush Co-operative Housing Society, at Dahisar East, which was evacuated in 2010 and sealed by the BMC, crashed at around 6.30am. Most victims were vendors operating illegally at the edge of the premises, besides family members of the building's security guard. At the heart of the crash was a dispute over conveyance, an issue that haunts a majority of old buildings in the city. 
    Constructed in the eighties, the ground-plus-four-storey building on Y Tawde Road was a stone's throw from the station and in the middle of a busy 

market dominated by vegetable wholesalers. "I was at my tea stall when there was a deafening sound, like an explosion. There was dust everywhere and I could see part of the structure caving in. I alerted seven to eight people around me and we ran out," said Hitesh Trivedi. He earlier ran a shop on the ground-floor of Piyush society, but after the building was evacuated and sealed, he began operating from the parking space. 
    Fire brigade personnel reached within 10 minutes and rescue operations began soon after. Locals and vendors played a crucial role in the initial rescue operations. Dahisar police recorded statements of society members and the watchman, besides those injured. 
    The building's watchman, Maansingh Lamsal, was inconsolable after losing three of his family members in the crash. "Maansingh had stepped out to fill the water tank of the adjacent building. His wife, Nandkala, daughter Pavitra and brother-in-law Lalbahadur Bhool were put up temporarily at Piyush society," said a relative. Sugarcane vendor Abdul Hassan too was tearyeyed after losing four employees who were chatting outside the building 
after dropping a co-worker at the railway station. 
    Initially a residential building, residents claimed that Piyush Society was converted to a commercial one when diamond polishing units came up in the flats. In 2010, the BMC sent a notice to the society declaring it as C-III category, a dangerous structure which was repairable. "The society had a dispute with the builder and redevelopment wasn't initiated. We filed a case against the society at the metropolitan magistrate's court," said deputy municipal commissioner Bharat Marathe. 
    "We didn't get conveyance, so we couldn't proceed with redevelopment. Using our funds, we put up tin sheets to cordon off the building after it was vacated three years ago. We also appointed a watchman to prevent anyone from entering the structure. The vendors, operating illegally outside the premises, had been warned the structure was dangerous," said society chairman Lalit Jain. 
    Casualties would have been far greater had the building collapse occurred in the evening when the market is packed. "In the morning, we buy vegetables from wholesalers for our retail shops. Saturday was no different till the building gave way. We ran wherever we could, mindless of the direction," said Rajitram Maurya, one of the injured. Pramod Prajapati, who suffered from a pelvic fracture, said he was stuck under a truck ferrying vegetables. He has been admitted to the trauma ICCU at Bhagwati Hospital and is under observation. Three others, Anilkumar Maurya, Jayprakash Gupta and Rambharose Rajbhar, sustained fractures. The rest, Rajitram Maurya, Santosh Ghone and Govindlal Gupta, suffered blunt injuries and abrasions, doctors said. 
    Corporator Prakash Darekar alleged the BMC should have initiated demolition after the building developed cracks three years ago. Municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte said"We are studying ways in which amendments could be introduced to give the BMC more powers to act in such cases. It is very unfortunate that completely unrelated people lost their lives in the incident," said Kunte. He said the BMC's powers fell short in this case as it was a private premise.

ANOTHER TRAGEDY: After the collapse, corporators blamed the civic body for not initiating demolition of the building, which developed cracks three years ago. But the BMC claimed that it had already started legal proceedings against the housing society


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