The mangled heap of steel and concrete at Lucky Compound in Shil Phata area of Thane shows how the builder ignored rules and safety measures while constructing the ill-fated building.
Municipal officers and local residents said the builder had raised the seven-storey structure within seven months. No plans were sent to the local municipal office for approval, and rules followed during construction were ignored despite a protest by labourers.
In another brazen violation, the builder was adding another floor even after renting out rooms to poor families apparently to avoid demolition by the municipal authorities by showing that the building was occupied.
“Even though the building was occupied till the seventh floor, the contractor told us to carry out the slab work on the eighth floor. When he asked us to put a layer of sand on the slab, we told him it was not correct procedure, but he didn’t listen," said Shantabai Jadhav, whose husband Raju's legs are in a cast at a hospital in Thane.
Meanwhile, rescue efforts continued throughout the day on Friday. The Thane Municipal Corporation, which did not have enough manpower to tackle the situation, called in a team of National Disaster Relief Force, which tried to find survivors with the help of thermal detectors.
TMC public relations officer Sandeep Malvi said about 80% of the debris was cleared till evening. A few were still feared trapped under the remaining debris.
As usual, blame game began soon after the incident. The TMC blamed the state forest department for allowing the illegal building to come up on forest land.
However, it accepted there were supervisory lapses on its part and hence decided to suspend deputy municipal commissioner Deepak Chavan of the Mumbra-Kalwa ward.
“The building was constructed on survey no 72, which is part of protected forest land. We had drafted a letter on October 8 and November 3 last year to the forest department and the developer regarding the illegal construction. We even suspended Shyam Thorbole, assistant municipal commissioner of the area in January,” said Thane municipal commissioner RA Rajeev.
Forest Officer JT Chavan insisted the plot falls under non-forest area.
“Our staff has done a survey with GPS system. The map clearly shows that the building falls in survey no 98. The land belongs to a tribal. It is true that we received the letters from the TMC, but not in this case.”