The death toll from the compound wall collapse in Mumbai’s Malad rose to 26 after rescuers recovered four more bodies on Wednesday.
Officials said the bodies were found at least 3 feet beneath the debris, with the help of sniffer dogs. Of the four, two were women, one was a man and the fourth was a female child.
On Wednesday, with the rains receding, rescue teams, worked round-the-clock to clear the debris and look for survivors or possibly more bodies. Meanwhile, the police was inquiring with local residents to ascertain how many more people were still missing.
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“The area is such that getting a JCB demolition vehicle or an ambulance inside is very difficult,” said Inspector K. Dhule of the Malad police station. “We are trying our best despite the challenges,” he added.
The local NCP corporator Dhanashree Bharadkar had written to the Brihanamumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in 2017, warning that the new wall did not have any outlets for storm water to drain out and that it could lead to a collapse, the corporator asserted in a statement.
“We had specifically written to the BMC in this matter as we noticed that it had left no outlets for water to flow out in the wall,” said Vaibhav Bharadkar, the corporator’s husband. “We had received lot of complaints from locals as well. But nobody from BMC did anything. We are a small party in BMC, so they do not seem to care,” he asserted.
A senior officer from the BMC’s Hydraulic Engineer’s department said, “A total five box drains were provided during the time of construction of this wall. This includes four cross drains and one culvert. However, their capacity is limited, maybe around 100 mm. When it rained close to 450 mm, they could not take the load and the wall broke. In some places, water had been flowing from above the three meter wall.”
The officer, who did not wish to be identified, however, also alleged that slum dwellers had obstructed the drain holes meant for allowing the flow of water by inserting bamboo sticks in them for supporting their houses.
In Malad’s Ambedkar Nagar, one of the two sites of the collapse, dazed looking survivors joined the police and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel in checking the debris. While some were looking for their belongings, others were looking for their family members.
“All I have left are my wife Ayesha Bano’s bangles, which I found while digging through the rubble,” said a resident Afzur Rehman, 30. “I don’t know where she is, or how she is. Nor do I know who I should blame for my misery,” he added.
Semma Manna, 38, said, “None of us have slept since the incident. I keep seeing the faces of my dead neighours every time I close my eyes. We do not feel safe any more. What happened with them can happen with us tomorrow.”
A visit to the two compound wall collapse sites, revealed that survivors now found themselves at the mercy of strangers. While they have been temporarily relocated to a local temple, food and water was being provided by residents of nearby buildings.
The survivors also complained about the lack of support from the concerned agencies. And each body that was pulled out of the wreckage on Wednesday only plunged the survivors into depression even further.