‘It looked like a tsunami’: Witnesses recount Ghazipur landfill collapse
A massive chunk of the garbage mound at Ghazipur landfill site slid into the nearby canal, triggering a huge “tsunami-like wave” that swept vehicles into the water.Updated: Sep 02, 2017 09:50 IST
“It came like a tsunami and we ran for our lives,” said 43-year-old Mustaqim, a taxi driver, who had just parked his car in front of his house when a huge chunk of the Ghazipur landfill site in east Delhi came crashing down into a tributary of the Hindon river killing two and injuring five others.
Though East Delhi mayor Neema Bhagat called the incident “a rare one”, residents of C-Block Mulla Colony that overlooks the 50-metre-tall mountain of garbage said the worse is yet to come, if no action is taken.
The massive landfill, which is nearly 30 metres higher than the permissible standard as per the master plan, had begun showing signs of the havoc it wrecked on Friday nearly a year ago. “During the Congress rule, a thick road was built right at the base of the landfill for easy access between the fish/poultry market and the slaughter house. The road raised and developed big cracks as it was built on garbage,” said Parvez, a resident of the colony.
It must have happened due to the poisonous gases the landfill produces, he added.
Residents feared that some people could be trapped inside the debris, as rag pickers and meat traders use the road for their daily chores. After the incident, police cordoned off the road, but rescue operations remained largely focused on the canal in which a car and three two-wheelers fell.
It was around 2.45pm when residents of Mulla Colony noticed that a small part of garbage mound had collapsed. Seconds later, a massive chunk fell off into the fast flowing tributary of the Hindon river. Parallel to this canal is the road that connects Delhi to Ghaziabad and another canal that was built by the flood and irrigation department.
The impact was such that the water from the Hindon canal swept the car and bikes from the road into the second canal.“The height of the wave made it look like a tsunami and all of us ran to safety,” said Mohammad Afsar Ansari, an eyewitness.
Other residents said they heard a loud noise and rushed to the spot to find seven people drowning in the canal. Vakeel Saifi and his friends jumped in to the canal to rescue the victims. Finding nothing to pull them out of the canal, they used ropes from Saifi’s father’s tent house shop.
“Some people brought in plastic pipes to pull the victims out of the canal,” Saifi said.
“We had to break the glass of the car to pull out the driver. Luckily, the water was not too deep. The police was soon alerted, but rescue operations began only after an hour or so,” said Parvez, one of those who jumped into the canal.
Fire fighters and disaster management teams used cranes to fish out the vehicles.
Calling it a situation similar to a landslide, East Delhi Municipal Corporation commissioner Ranbir Singh said that with 3,000 metric tonnes of garbage dumped in Ghazipur daily, the landfill has already outlived its life by over 15 years. “An inquiry will be conducted and the search operations will go on,” he said.
Soon after the incident, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, his deputy Manish Sisodia, member of Parliament Maheish Girri and local politicians visited the spot.