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Building collapses in Delhi’s Karol Bagh, residents escape by a whisker

An old, dilapidated four-storeyed commercial building, which housed stitching units and shops, collapsed in central Delhi’s Karol Bagh Wednesday. Residents of adjacent buildings said they sensed the danger minutes before the collapse and managed to run to safety in the nick of time.

delhi Updated: Feb 28, 2019 07:25 IST
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Police said there were no casualties in Wednesday’s incident but local residents said a 50-year-old woman living in an adjacent building fell and hurt her head while scampering to safety.(Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)

An old, dilapidated four-storeyed commercial building, which housed multiple stitching units and shops, collapsed in central Delhi’s Karol Bagh on Wednesday morning, police said. Residents of adjacent buildings said they sensed the danger minutes before the collapse and managed to run to safety in the nick of time.

This is the second such incident in Karol Bagh in five days. A part of a two-storeyed 50-year-old, dilapidated building had collapsed in Karol Bagh’s Dev Nagar on February 23. No one was hurt that day.

The police said there were no casualties in Wednesday’s incident but local residents said a 50-year-old woman, Kamla Devi, living in an adjacent building fell and hurt her head while scampering to safety. “She received a dozen stitches, but is out of danger,” said Devi’s nephew, Virender Khorwal.

While the police and the municipal authorities were yet to confirm what went wrong, Virender and other residents attributed the collapse to a widening gap between the building and a four-storey residential structure adjacent to it.

“Initially, the two buildings would stick to each other. But four-five years ago, the commercial building began separating from our structure. Over the last two years, the gap was four to six inches and visible,” said Virender, a local businessman.

Virender’s uncle, Hemant Khorwal, said he and others had raised the matter multiple times with the owners of different commercial units in the building but to no effect. The Khorwal family was particularly concerned because the widening gap threatened their safety.

“There are a dozen owners. The multiplicity of ownership meant they could never unite to contain the damage. Each time we complained, they offered false promises of action,” Hemant said.

The police are yet to trace the ownership of the building. “We have learnt there were around half-a-dozen owners who had all rented out their spaces,” said an investigator.

Mandeep Singh Randhawa, deputy commissioner of police (central), said a case under Indian Penal Code section 336 (act endangering life or personal safety of others) has been registered at the Prashad Nagar police station.

The building, constructed over a 1,500 square feet plot , is located at a market in Dev Nagar. It is a corner house with two wide roads on two sides and a narrow lane at its back.

According to North Municipal Corporation of Delhi commissioner Varsha Joshi, who ordered an enquiry into the collapse, the building did not figure in its survey of dangerous buildings. In the past, Delhi’s three municipalities had often missed the “real” dangerous buildings in their pre-monsoon surveys.

Residents of adjacent buildings said they had sensed trouble in the wee hours of Wednesday but had ignored it thinking it was the routine shedding of concrete from the affected portion. The problem manifested prominently around 8.20am, Virender said.

“The heavy shedding of concrete began creating a scary sound. Some of us checked the structure to realise it would collapse. We rushed out and alerted others as well,” said Virender.

The building came crashing down around 8.30am. “It took only a couple of seconds before it was all flat. We were blinded by the dust, but were relieved to find no one was trapped,” said Manoj Prakash, a local resident.

The neighbouring buildings were mostly unaffected but the one immediately adjacent to it will remain vacated until deemed fit, said a police officer.

A north corporation zonal officer said, “There could have been casualties had the building fallen on adjacent structures. It was one of those buildings that showed no visible signs of weakness,” said the officer.

Atul Garg, chief fire officer (Delhi Fire Services), said the process of removing the debris would go on until late evening. “The debris was checked for trapped people, but no one was found inside,” said Garg.

First Published: Feb 28, 2019 07:25 IST