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Lives crash along with building

mumbai Updated: Oct 08, 2010 02:51 IST
Hindustan Times
mumbai

5 battling for life at JJ Hospital

Reheman Ali Maqbool was out buying medicines for a relative when a cylinder blast reduced his second-hand clothes shop to rubble. When he got there, amidst the chaos, he found that his nephew Mohammad Irfan Mirabaksh (28) was among those who perished.

“It was only at 3 pm, when they removed his body from the wreckage, that we realised he was no more,” said Maqbool.
Of those injured, five are in critical condition. Among them is Mohammed Nafis Raini who suffered 65 per cent burns.

Two others suffered head injuries and two had serious fractures.

Four others suffered 25 to 35 per cent burns.

“The blast occurred around 11 am but the cranes took too long to reach the site and clear the debris. Eight people were trapped, of whom only three came to hospital alive,” said JJ Hospital Dean TP Lahane. “I was at the site and we could hear people screaming for help; they must have suffocated to death. The others were lucky that the roof that collapsed on them was thin and they didn’t get too badly hurt.”

There were two children, Mohammed Kamin (4) and Mohammed Salman Salmani (14), among the injured.

“We have deployed a team of two surgeons and an anaesthetist to look after those injured in the collapse. X-rays were taken immediately; CT scans were taken when required. Minor injuries were sutured and the patients were sent to the ward,” said Lahane.

“Since most of those who died were migrant workers whose families are in villages in Uttar Pradesh, the bodies cannot be taken out of hospital till a letter of permission is faxed by the village chiefs,” said social worker Mohammed Rafiq.

Nazma Qureshi couldn’t believe her nephew Pappu Qureshi (25) was no more. “Yesterday, we heard his cousin met with an accident in the village and today this happened. Our family is suffering from a streak of bad luck,” she said.


‘I’m thankful I didn’t lose a limb’

Tolah Munir Hussain (48), from Faizabad, was working at Dwarkadas building’s Gala No 53 with 20 others when he smelled compressed natural gas (CNG). “We did not suspect anything amiss until the smell grew very strong,” said Hussain, who suffered a head injury in the cylinder blast that occurred on the ground floor of the building near Bhendi Bazaar on Thursday. Such was the intensity of the blast that part of the building collapsed, killing five people and injuring 26.

“Minutes after we smelled the gas, there was a huge explosion. Before we could think of escaping or even figure out what was happening, the roof collapsed on us,” said Hussain, who has been working at the scrap cloth shop for the past three years.

Hussain said he fell unconscious and woke up in JJ Hospital.

“I am thankful that I am alive and have not lost any of my limbs. I am the sole bread winner of my family,” he said.

“I am praying for all my colleagues and residents of the building. The shop where the blast occurred has been there for years. We never thought such a thing would happen,” said Hussain, who was pulled out of the debris by fire brigade officers.

Hussain said the owners of the shop where he works were not there when the blast occurred. “When I regained consciousness, I called up my employer. I don’t have money to pay the hospital bill,” said Hussain, a father of three. Megha Sood

‘I thought my friend had died’

Mohammed Nadeem Ibrisi (22) was buried under the debris of Dwarkadas building for four hours on Thursday. “We were in the shop when we heard the blast and Ibrisi told me to run. I ran to save myself. As I exited the shop, I turned to look for Ibrisi. But, he couldn’t escape and was buried in the rubble. I was afraid that that he had died,” said Firoz Shaikh, Ibrisi’s colleague who suffered head injuries.

“I began crying, thinking Ibrisi had saved my life at the cost of his own. I was rushed to JJ Hospital by fire brigade officers and all the way I kept praying for his life,” said Shaikh. “Three hours later, one of my colleagues came with the news that Ibrisi had been rescued and was on his way to hospital. I thanked God for that.”

Ibrisi, whose right leg and upper body were damaged, is in critical condition.

A native of Faizabad, Ibrisi had been working at the scrap cloth shop for the past two months.

He was standing near a pillar, said his colleagues, when part of the building collapsed. The shop’s ceiling, they said, fell on him. Megha Sood


‘I felt as if the sky had fallen on my head’

It was Rajkumar’s (28) first day at work after a visit to his hometown. As the labourer from Bhopal, who prefers to use only his first name, began work he never thought a disaster was about to befall him.

As three rooms of Dwarkadas building collapsed, he was buried under the debris. Miraculously, he was extricated with only minor injuries two hours later.

“I felt as if the sky was falling on me. Within seconds, I was trapped. I collapsed in shock and opened my eyes only when I reached hospital,” said Rajkumar. “I was one of the lucky few to escape unhurt,” he said, a faint smile on his face, at JJ Hospital.

Rajkumar, who has been an employee of a shop in the building for the last three years, began work at 9 am, gutting waste cloth to make strands out of it when he heard the explosion.

“The sound was so loud that my ears became numb and I could not hear a thing after that. My colleagues ran to save themselves and gestured for me to run too. But I was so shocked I couldn’t move and was buried when the shop’s ceiling collapsed,” he said.

Rajkumar was discharged after preliminary treatment on Thursday evening. Megha Sood

Shop was illegally storing CNG cylinders

The scrap shop in which the cylinder blast occurred on Thursday, leading to the collapse of a part of Dwarkadas building near Bhendi Bazaar, didn’t have a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the fire brigade.

Any shop that stores gas cylinders requires such an NOC, apart from the shops and establishment licence. The NOC needs to be renewed every year.

“The shop is very old and doesn’t have the NOC. There are many such shops in the area and across the city without the appropriate licences,” said a senior fire brigade official on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Officials said the scrap shop had compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders that were removed from old taxis being phased out by the government. They would dilute the gas from these cylinders by passing it through a tank of water and then sell off the cylinder case.

Another official said gas might have leaked from a cylinder and sparks from the welding activity in the shop may have ignited it.

“We will confirm from our records that the shop didn’t have an NOC and send recommendations to the ward office on action to be taken against the owners,” said the officer. “There were more than 15 CNG cylinders and five to seven LPG cylinders in the shop. When we cleared the debris, we found some leaking CNG cylinders that had to be plugged immediately.”

Chief Fire Officer Uday Tatkare said the leaking cylinders had faulty valves. Firemen clearing the debris smelt gas, which is how they located the cylinders.

“We will clear the area of such cylinders,” said Tatkare. Bhavika Jain