Six children of a family were killed and five others injured when a ground-plus-four-storey structure collapsed in a congested alley at Behrampada slum in Bandra (East) on Thursday afternoon.
Two earth movers, five fire engines and two ambulances were deployed to the area. However, the slum’s narrow alleys made it impossible for any of the vehicles to access the site. This forced rescuers to remove the debris by hand and delayed rescue operations. The two ambulances were parked on the main road.
“The biggest hurdle we faced was moving through the narrow by-lanes in the area. The alley in which the structure stood is too narrow for even two people to stand side by side,” said a fireman after rescue operations ended.
PS Rahangdale, chief fire officer, said, “Rescue operations were hampered by the narrow passageway, which made it impossible to deploy heavy machinery.”
Firemen, civic officials and local residents removed debris for over an hour before the first person could be rescued.
The cramped alley houses not only brick-and-mortar residences but also a masjid, a few restaurants and various shops. Some of the structures along it are six storeys high.
This is not the first disaster the congested locality – rife with illegal constructions in the narrow lanes – has witnessed in recent times. In 2011, a major fire gutted Garib Nagar, which adjoining Bandra station and Behrampada. Many people were injured and around 200 shanties were destroyed. Then, too, rescue operations were hampered by narrow lanes and haphazard construction.
Youngsters help fire brigade pull out trapped
More than 50 residents of Behrampada came together to help the fire brigade speed up rescue work and clear debris under which survivors were buried.
Help came in all forms with a local dairy owner giving away all the milk trays to help scoop the debris.
Shoaib Ansari, 21, a local who cheated death by a cat’s whisker, soon joined a group of youngsters that helped the rescue workers. Ansari told Hindustan Times, “It was around 1.10 pm. I was passed the ill-fated structure with my friend Kasif Ansari and within seconds I heard a huge crash. Initially, I did not understand what had happened. There was smoke everywhere that had spread on to the main road. Thanks to Allah, I am alive. The fire brigade arrived about 20 to 30 minutes later. ”
Asif Ansari, who runs a dairy nearby, gave away all his milk trays for the rescue operation. About 30 youths including Shoaib and Asif formed an over 50m human chain and swiftly passed milk trays in which the debris was collected. Senior police inspector of Nirmal nagar police station, Vasudev Jamdade, who was at the spot appreciated the work undertaken by the youngsters.
“They did a fine job in helping the fire brigade officials doubling their manpower,” said Jamdade.
Resident loses five of his children in collapse
Thursday’s building collapse hit 50-year-old Nisar Ahmed Khan the worst — of the six deaths, five belonged to his own family. Khan, a resident of the four-storeystructure for five years, saw five of his children crushed under the heavy debris.
Khan, the owner of a small imitation jewellery shop, was not at home when the incident took place. “I had gone to the Andheri RTO when I got a call from the local grocery store owner that our house had collapsed with my entire family in it,” said Khan. As he reached , he saw the fire brigade, police officials and locals trying to rescue his family.
“There were ambulances and we took all my children to Bhabha Hospital. They were bleeding heavily and had severe wounds,” said Khan. But the children were pronounced dead. Khan has nine children.
His family said they have appealed to senior police inspectors and politicians to help them receive the bodies without post mortems.
“We have already suffered a lot. It is an accident that claimed innocent lives and we would prefer if the postmortems aren’t done,” said a family member.
The bodies of the children are currently in the mortuary of Bhabha Hospital and are likely to be handed over to the family at 10am on Friday.