'Walls began to crack two years ago'
Shehnaz Sheikh (26) was at her Gupta Chawl home when she heard a commotion outside. Her chawl is separated by a passageway from Aksa Chawl, where Thursday's tragedy took place.mumbai Updated: Aug 20, 2010 01:46 IST
Shehnaz Sheikh (26) was at her Gupta Chawl home when she heard a commotion outside. Her chawl is separated by a passageway from Aksa Chawl, where Thursday's tragedy took place.
"My house is a stone's throw away from Aksa Chawl. Some of my neighbours had come out of their houses and were yelling something. There were three women and six children standing there. When I looked out the window, they were looking at a vacant house into which boulders had rolled.
"No sooner did I shout to them to ask what was going on than the retaining wall collapsed, carrying the structure along with it. It all happened in a matter of minutes," said Sheikh.
She ran out of her house and alerted the chawl's residents.
"It was the residents who first started rescuing those trapped. The ambulance came after about 45 minutes. The walls of the chawl had been showing cracks for the past two to three years. Slabs kept falling off in the rooms, but nothing was done," said Sheikh.
She also cited an instance where boulders had entered a room, but the residents did not take up the matter.
In shock, can't speak much
Rakesh Patel was at work when his wife Reema (28) and two sons, Amit (7) and Raj (5), were engulfed by the debris. When he returned, the only one he could find from his family was his daughter Neha (8). She was in a state of shock and could speak only in monosyllables.
Neha, who was playing nearby when the retaining wall collapsed, had a miraculous escape. She managed to get out of harm’s way in the nick of time.
Her eight-month-old sister narrowly cheated death too. She was rescued by local women, who took her to Kalsekar Hospital. Her condition is said to be stable.
"She was stuck in her mother's arms. We dragged both out and took them to a nearby hospital, but the doctors refused to attend to them. They asked us to take them to another hospital. Reema was alive till then, but she died by the time we reached Kalsekar Hospital," said Waheeda Khan (25).
Rakesh said they had been staying in the house for a few months. Amit and Raj had just returned from tuition classes when the tragedy occurred. Their uncle dropped them home and went to the market when the wall collapsed.