In a reminder of the dreaded cave-ins during the monsoon this year, a road gave way in north Delhi's Chandni Chowk on Saturday morning.
Twelve people, including labourers and pavement dwellers, were injured and an equivalent number of kiosks destroyed in the cave-in, that caused a 40-foot crater and occurred metres from an underground, multi-level parking coming up adjacent the busy Shri Ram Market area.
The mishap is being attributed to a faulty water pipeline beneath Subhash Maidan, located on the Esplanade Road. Scores of pavement dwellers were asleep and several construction workers active in the area, when the road underneath them gave way at 5.30 am.
Twelve fire tenders were rushed to the spot and undertook a three-hour-long rescue operation there. "We were finally able to help them out around 9 am and rushed them to the Lok Nayak Hospital for medical assistance," said a senior Delhi Police officer investigating the incident.
Blaming the Delhi Jal Board (DJB), SS Yadav, deputy commissioner of police (north) said, "The DJB is responsible for the maintenance of the said pipeline that was connected to a defunct water storage facility and was being used by the Delhi Fire Service (DFS) earlier."
Even as the Delhi Police registered a case of negligence against unknown persons and MCD Commissioner KS Mehra ordered an inquiry into the incident, traders said the incident took place because the civic agencies failed to implement the Chandni Chowk redevelopment plan.
The plan was supposed to overhaul the century-old sewage and water network infrastructure of the area.
"No work was going on near the accident site for the past few days. On receiving information about the incident, senior officers rushed to the spot to help in the rescue operation," said Deep Mathur, director, press and information, MCD.
Meanwhile, the DFS claimed that it had complained to the DJB about the leaking water pipeline, that is supposed to have weakened the road and caused it to cave in.
However, a senior DJB official, requesting anonymity, said, "It is possible that the complaint forwarded to us got quashed at the executive level. We will get the whole matter examined."
The official added, "The cave-in has occurred due to the incessant rainfall the Capital received this year and also because the spot is located near the Yamuna."
Even as civic agencies dodged responsibility for the incident and passed the buck, a family of four in Sitaram Bazar lost its only means of sustenance.
"We had a STD booth there; it was among the nine kiosks that fell into the ditch. No one is taking responsibility; we don't know who to approach for compensation," said Ashu Khanna, wife of Prabhat Khanna, whose STD booth was among the destroyed kiosks.
All the kiosks at the site are legal and MCD-sanctioned.