At least 32 people lost their lives and more than 15 were injured when a five-storey residential building collapsed in the densely populated Bhendi Bazaar area of south Mumbai this morning. According to civic officials involved in the rescue operation, many others are still feared to be trapped under the debris of the building.
Mumbai fire officials and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel are carrying out search and rescue operations. A BMC Disaster Control official said that war-like efforts were on to rescue those trapped, adding that the death toll could rise.
All injured persons have been admitted to the state-run JJ hospital for medical relief, where the condition of five is said to be critical.
The disaster management cell of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) said that a call was received at 8.40 am about the collapse and 10 fire engines immediately rushed to site. The building is situated in a heavily congested locality of south Mumbai's C Ward and rescue teams with their big vehicles and heavy equipment faced a tough time approaching the crash site.
The injured persons also included at least six firemen.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who visited the incident site, has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh to the victims’ families. Besides, he has assured that strict action will be taken in case of any negligence and ordered a detailed enquiry in the mishap to Additional Chief Secretary (Housing).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also expressed her condolences and prayed for the speedy recovery of injured people. “Collapse of building in Mumbai is saddening. My condolences to families of those who lost their lives and prayers with the injured,” he said.
Reports say that the building falls in the region which has been identified for redevelopment by the civic body. At least two to three buildings near the collapsed structure was evacuated few days ago after authorities declared them unsafe for living.
Local residents say that the building also housed a nursery-cum-playschool and the incident took place just an hour before the playschool was scheduled to open.
An eyewitness said that locals initiated their own manual rescue efforts, moving the rubble with their hands to help the victims before NDRF, state disaster management, fire officials and others reach the spot. Two sniffer dog squads, electronic gadgetry along with five fire engines, two JCBs, one crane and other machines have been pressed into service to remove the rubble.
A BMC bulletin at noon said that the structure included an uninhabited godown on the ground floor and total 10 tenements on the remaining upper floors. It added that the building - a Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) cessed structure - was part of the Saifee Burhani Upliftment Trust (SBUT) redevelopment project, and declared unsafe for living at least six years ago.
"The dangerous building was served evacuation notice in 2011 and the occupants ordered to vacate it to make way for the SBUT redevelopment project, but they failed to heed the warnings," said a BMC official.
This is the first major building collapse after Tuesday's deluge in Mumbai, and the second in five days after the Chandivali Crystal Business Park crash on August 26, that claimed six lives.