Within a few hours, the building collapse at Lalita Park in east Delhi claimed 66 lives and left 71 injured by Tuesday evening, making this the biggest disaster the Capital has ever witnessed.
Even terrorist attacks have not been able to take so many lives at one go. The death toll is bigger than the two serial bomb blasts which rocked Delhi in 2005 and 2008, and by body count, it is just short of the serial explosions on the Samjhauta Express in 2007.
Shaken out of slumber, the Delhi government was forced to take a close look at the structures on the riverbed — which anyway is on an earthquake-prone Seismic IV zone — and grapple with the question: Is any structure, even the Games Village, on the riverbed safe?
Officials have confirmed to Hindustan Times that there are 80 colonies on the riverbed — hosting thousands of buildings — that could be just a flood away from a similar collapse. These colonies house between four and seven lakh people.
These colonies include both the regularised and unauthorised ones and such populous areas as Mukherjee Nagar, Model Town, Batla House, Majnu Ka Tila, Sonia Vohar, Laxmi Nagar, Geeta Colony, Badarpur and others.
Experts said that coupled with the earthquake prone nature of the riverbed, the science behind the water seepage in these structures is such that no building, not even the Games Village is free from risk.
"Flood raises the level of the underground aquifer to the surface and overtime makes the soil unsuitable for holding the weight of buildings," said Prof AK Gosain, civil engineering department at IIT Delhi, and an expert on water resource management.
What makes these colonies on the riverbed prone to collapse is the faulty, haphazard construction, an MCD official said. "The colonies should have a framed structure wherein the columns and beam act as the strong foundation for supporting the entire building. But that is not at all followed."
Emaar MGF, the developers of the Games Village, said their project was structurally safe.
"The project has been proof-checked by technical consultants from IIT Roorkee and the Central Building Research Institute...." said an email reply from the company.