After an unoccupied five-storey under-construction building tilted and rested precariously on an adjacent four-storey house in JJ resettlement colony in Inderpuri on Saturday, the people living close by have vacated their buildings and shifted with their relatives.
Salma Khatun, 26, and her four children, all aged below 10 years, were forced to abandon their house here as the family had escaped death by a whisker. Khatun lived on the top floor of the three-storey house, which is next to the four-storey building. After the incident she had to move to her sister’s home in Nizamuddin.
“While my sister-in-law Salma has moved to her sister’s house, I am staying with a friend in JJ Colony. Our house was one of the worst-affected. It has developed gaping cracks. We don’t know whether and when we could return. It is too risky,” said Mohammad Husnain, 30, a resident in the same building as Khatun’s.
But they are not the only ones. Fear and uncertainty is now looming over around 30 families who lived in seven other buildings adjacent to the collapse site. The civic authorities have ‘verbally’ directed them to evacuate their homes as demolition work is underway.
“We have asked residents of six to seven adjacent buildings to evacuate, as demolition work is going on. The tilted building is resting in a very precarious condition and hence it is risky to stay in the adjacent buildings,” said an engineer of north Delhi Municipal Corporation, supervising the demolition work.
At least 25 labourers have been engaged for the demolition. Work starts from 8am and continues till 10pm. But civic authorities claimed that they are forced to work at a slow pace as the building could crumble anytime.
It was around 3:30am on Saturday that locals were jolted out of their sleep by a deafening noise. Initially they thought that it was an earthquake. A cloud of dust had blanketed the neighbourhood as people scurried out of their houses. Women and children were screaming as the dust choked them.
“When people realised that it was a building collapse, rescue operations started. The families trapped in the two worst-affected buildings were evacuated. Those trapped on the top floor had to climb down with the help of a rope,” said Kishen Kheraliya, one of the rescuers.
The affected families have taken shelter either in their relatives’ homes or have put up with neighbours and friends. They could not bring out any of their belongings. Five youths, who were living in one of the flats on rent, had to spend their night in a temple in the locality. Throughout Sunday, locals gathered at the spot and recalled the horror.
“We have asked one of the affected families to use a room in our house. Where will they go? This is the time to stand by them,” said 57-year-old Sarita Devi.
Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on the owner of the tilted building to compensate the affected families. Locals said that the owner, Laxmi Narayan Pahariya, has agreed to compensate the seven families who used to live in the two worst-affected houses. He is also being questioned by the police.
Locals alleged that even though one building has tilted, there are several other buildings in the area which have been built in the same manner and could meet the same fate in the future.
“Most of the buildings stand on less than 25-30 square yards without any space between them in the dingy lanes. Building rules are openly flouted here. The civic officials only wake up if a building collapses and several people are killed,” said Raju Bhaktiyar, a local.
The North Corporation is planning to launch a major crackdown on such buildings soon.