Four dead in Ulhasnagar as slab gives way in 25-year-old Manas Palace building

Published on Sep 22, 2022 11:59 PM IST

Ulhasnagar: Four people, including three members of a family, were killed after a slab collapsed in a residential building in Ulhasnagar on Thursday, making it the second such incident in the municipality in a week and the third this monsoon season

Four dead in Ulhasnagar as slab gives way in 25-year-old Manas Palace building
Four dead in Ulhasnagar as slab gives way in 25-year-old Manas Palace building

Ulhasnagar: Four people, including three members of a family, were killed after a slab collapsed in a residential building in Ulhasnagar on Thursday, making it the second such incident in the municipality in a week and the third this monsoon season.

The four were trapped, and could not be rescued in time, after a slab broke off from a bedroom on the fourth floor of Manas Palace in Ulhasnagar, a little after noon on Thursday. The ground-plus-five structure is 25 years old and is listed as a dangerous building by the Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation (UMC).

The deceased were identified as 24-year-old Priya Dhanwani, her father Dholandas Dhanwani (58) and mother Renu Dhanwani (55). Nineteen-year-old Sagar Ochani, who worked in his father’s flour mill located on the ground floor of the building, also died in the incident.

The building had 20 flats with four shops. At least 10 families were staying in the building, while the rest had vacated a few months ago.

“The building was listed as a dangerous and notices were served to the owners in July as well as last year in May. Some residents had vacated while few families were living as they were reluctant to vacate. A flour mill was operational on the ground floor where a father and son duo worked. As soon as we heard about the incident our team rushed to the spot and initiated with the rescue operations,” said Ganesh Shimpi, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, UMC.

As the collapse happened, many residents managed to rush out. “All four who were trapped under the debris were declared dead,” Shimpi added.

“Even after the slab collapsed the building appeared to be tilted. We heard loud noise and rushed out to see what went wrong. We could see some people running away from the building, while some shouting for help,” said Kanchan Makhija, 35, who lives nearby the tower.

A team from the UMC fire department carried the rescue operations. A National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team was also deployed to the spot. The rescue operation took four hours.

This monsoon alone, three incidents of slab collapses in Ulhasnagar has claimed six lives.

“After the previous incident, I had called a meeting with all officials and an auditor on Thursday. However the slab collapse incident took place and we all had to rush there. We carried out the meeting on Thursday evening and have decided to come up with a standard operating procedure to deal with such slab collapse incidents in the city,” said Aziz Shaikh, commissioner, UMC.

Priya was to get married in December

Priya Dhanwani (24) had got engaged a month ago was supposed to get married in December, her cousin Bunty Dhanwani said. Her parents, Dholandas and Renu, who also died in Thursday’s incident, owned a tailoring business which they operated from their home.

“Both my uncle and aunty were hearing impaired and mute, and relied on their tailoring business for their livelihood. They managed to educate Priya till graduation and were happy that she was going to get married. We were all set for it. The incident has shaken our entire family,” said Bunty Dhanwani, 35, said.

Father has a narrow escape, but son dies

Suresh Ochani, the father of 19-year-old Sagar, who died in the slab collapse had a narrow escape. He was present in his flour mill on the ground floor along with his son, when the collapse happened. While Suresh managed to rush out of the building, Sagar was trapped under the debris.

“They would work in shifts. Whenever my uncle was away, Sagar would manage customers. At times, he would work for 12 hours. My uncle is in shock as he could not save Sagar,” said Nitin Chanchlani, 31, a cousin.

“Sagar was very honest and always dedicated his time to the shop and the business. My aunt and her daughter are inconsolable,” he added.

Sagar’s family said that while he was pulled out of the debris by rescue teams, there was no ambulance to ferry him to the hospital. The family eventually carried him to the hospital themselves.

“Sagar did not suffer any injury. He was screaming from inside the debris for almost an hour for help. When he was pulled out, it was raining and there was no ambulance at the spot. We decided to take him to the nearby Bhagwandas hospital, which is 200 meters away. There, he was declared dead. If an ambulance had reached on time, we could have taken him to the hospital sooner and saved his life. He died of suffocation,” Nitin Ochani, 29, Sagar’s cousin brother said.

“There were two ambulances at the spot. Both had left with the victims and it took some time for the vehicles to return as people were crowding the spot even though the police tried to move them away. The building is located in a congestion narrow lane and the police were also controlling the traffic situation,” said Ganesh Shimpi, assistant commissioner, UMC.

Low quality sand used to build building

Over the last decade, incidents of slab collapse in more than 60 buildings in Ulhasnagar have claimed 38 lives. The number has escalated since the last year, when 15 people were killed in similar incidents. On the other hand, 5,000-6,000 were rendered homeless in these incidents.

The disaster-prone buildings are not more than 15-20 years old – most built with inferior quality sand. While the UMC had made a structural audit mandatory for all these buildings, it has no record of how many people have actually submitted the audit report.

“Most of these buildings are illegal and they came up without any consent from the civic body. The civic officials then knew about the (faulty) construction, but did not stop it. These flats were very affordable and the resident used to get lured by the low cost,” said Shashikant Dayma, a social activist from Ulhasnagar.

“The then Thane district collector had banned the excavation of sand from the creek. Due to this most of the developers used to bring the sand from Ulwe village in Navi Mumbai and continued their construction. Between 1992 and 1995, construction was on in full swing. There was also a lot of demand for flats among the residents,” said Hardas Makhija, 75, former mayor, UMC.

“Only a redevelopment policy and that too if implemented quickly with priority can save the city. There is no other way to curb these incidents as most of the buildings are unsafe,” Makhija said.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sajana is a correspondent for Kalyan and has an experience of about four years covering civic and cultural issues for Thane edition of HT.

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