The residents of Kalwa's Sonibai Bhawan, which collapsed on Tuesday, killing 10 people, are yet to come to terms with the tragedy. They looked on as the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) cleared the debris on Thursday after demolishing what was left of the building. Many residents tried to recover their belongings from the rubble.
Twisted vessels, a smashed fridge, cupboards and stained clothes were strewn among the debris. While some residents pulled out a mattress, others spotted important documents.
"I was alone at home when the building collapsed. Though the fire brigade allowed us to retrieve our jewellery, our documents were left behind. Fortunately, I found them," said Sushila Patil (51), who stayed on the second floor of the building.
Not all residents were as fortunate. The Baniks, who lost their 16-year-old daughter in the crash, couldn't find any of their belongings. "We had a suitcase full of expensive sarees. We cannot find it. We don't know whether someone took it or it's beneath the debris," said Sujal Banik (44).
Sonibai Bhawan was the third building to have collapsed in a span of two months in Kalwa. All three were built before 1984, when no civic body existed and Kalwa was administered by a gram panchayat.
"These buildings are weak. The gram panchayat didn't have structural engineers to check them. Most buildings constructed during this period were built on reclaimed land. Since these are low-lying areas, the structure is bound to be weak," said Municipal Commissioner R.A. Rajeev. There are 5,000 unauthorised structures in TMC limits, more than 250 in Kalwa.
"It's not enough to repair them as their foundations are weak," said Rajeev. The solution, the civic body said, was cluster redevelopment — the demolition of all such structures and a planned township coming up in their place. "People should inform us if they see cracks in their buildings," said Deputy Municipal Commissioner (Anti-Encroachment) B.G. Pawar.