15 killed in Pune wall collapse, torrential rain lashes Mumbai
Torrential rain pounded Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra for the second day on Saturday after the onset of the south-west monsoon, triggering a wall collapse that killed at least 15 people in their sleep in Pune.
The 15-feet-high compound wall of a housing society in the Kondhwa area of Pune toppled over and buried a cluster of adjoining tin-roofed shanties that housed migrant workers from Bihar and their families. The 15 who died in the incident included four children and two women.
The newly constructed wall, dividing the car park of the multi-storey apartment complex, Alcon Stylus, from the shanty cluster, collapsed at around 1:30am when the workers were asleep and did not get a chance to shift to another location. Some cars parked in the lot were damaged.
“The workers were living in a camp of an under-construction site,” said Pune district collector, Naval Kishore Ram, who formed a five-member panel to inquire into the collapse and submit a report within a week.“Prima facie, the builder seems to be at fault as he set up the labour camp right adjacent to the wall.”
By Saturday afternoon, the police filed a first information report (FIR) against 15 persons, including the developer, site engineer and contractor of both sites (Alcon Stylus and the under-construction building), listing their offence as culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams, together with the police and fire brigade personnel, rescued the two injured and retrieved the bodies of those who died, all of whom belonged to Bihar’s Katihar district. The two injured, Ajay Kumar Dilip Sharma, 19, and Pooja Rajesh Sharma, 6, were admitted to Pune’s Sassoon Hospital. Their condition was said to be stable.
An NDRF official said the wall collapsed because of the heavy downpour in the city.
“The boundary wall was built near construction site sheds and, when it collapsed, at least three sheds were completely bogged down under the wall. It collapsed at least six feet below the surface level,” said the official, Sadanand Gawde.
Kondhwa Fire Station in-charge Prakash Gore said the foundation of the compound wall had weakened because of deep digging in the area. Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) commissioner Saurabh Rao said the digging was illegal and those who had carried it out would be punished.
Alcon Stylus society resident Abdullah Parkar said the society had informed the builder about the hazards of the weakened wall and expressed concern that the digging carried out in the neighbourhood by another developer may cause damage.
“The pleas of the residents fell on deaf ears and this incident took place. We are saddened at the development ,” he said.
Pune received 73.1 millimetres of rain in the 24 hours until 5pm on Saturday, the second highest in June since 2010. The city typically receives 137mm of rain in June, a level crossed in the past two days.
In Mumbai, the Colaba observatory recorded 81.2mm of rainfall and the Santacruz weather station recorded 234.8mm of rainfall over a period of 24 hours until 8.30am on Saturday.
Three people had died of electric shock on Friday in Mumbai and five more perished in other rain-related incidents elsewhere in Maharashtra.
Waterlogging, choked drains, delayed trains and traffic snarls — the familiar woes experienced by India’s commercial capital at the start of the monsoon — disrupted normal life in Mumbai. Thirty-nine incidents of electrical short circuit were reported and 104 trees were uprooted, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said.
The intensity of rainfall in Mumbai is expected to weaken by Monday in Mumbai, the India Meteorological Department said.
“In the last 24 hours, all the areas of Mumbai have received rainfall of around 200mm...We have decreased the level of warning issued yesterday from extremely heavy rainfall to heavy rainfall for today; it will keep decreasing after today evening for coming 24-48 hours,” said KS Hosalikar, deputy director general of IMD, Mumbai.
Average rainfall in Mumbai for the month of June is 505mm and so far the region has recorded 400mm, Hosalikar said.
In Pune, the Kondhwa wall collapse focussed attention on illegal constructions in the area that civil officials haven’t been able to deter.
“This incident has brought to fore issue of unauthorised and illegal construction in Kondhwa. The PMC has clearly failed to keep a check on the illegal developments in the city, especially in Kodhwa, the consequences of which are such accidents,” said Yogesh Tilekar, the MLA whose Hadapsar constituency includes Kondhwa.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said he was “extremely saddened by the loss of lives.. My deepest condolences to the families and praying for speedy recovery of the injured,” tweeted Fadnavis, who announced an ex-gratia payment of ~5 lakh to families of each of the dead.
“The district administration is taking all the necessary steps to take back deceased to their native places. An aeroplane is being organised for this,” said Fadnavis.
All the 15 belonged to Katihar district of Bihar. Chief minister Nitish Kumar expressed shock over the incident and announced ex-gratia payment of ~2 lakh to the bereaved families. Migration to other states in search of work is common in Bihar because of chronic unemployment and scarce job opportunities.
“We had never thought that tragedy will strike us in such a big way. The incident has left us shattered,” Ram Narayan Sharma of Baisbighi village said. “If we don’t migrate, arranging two square meals a day would be impossible for us. The incident exposes the vicious circle of poverty in our villages.”
(Nadeem Inamdar in Pune and agencies contributed to the story)