Twelve people, including eight minors, died and seven people were injured after a ground-plus-three storey structure collapsed on an adjoining two-storeyed house in Malvani slums of Malad area in Mumbai’s western suburb on Wednesday night. Of the 12 dead, nine, including six children, were from the same family. Some relatives and survivors recount the horror:
‘Didn’t know the building was dangerous to live in’
Mohammed Siddiqui was returning home with a packet of milk on Wednesday night when he heard a loud rumbling sound. When he rushed to the spot, he couldn’t believe his eyes. The ground-plus-two storey building, where he was residing with his family, had collapsed.
The Malad resident lost nine of his family members including his wife Rahisa Bano, who had asked him to get milk for the next day’s breakfast. He lost his 45-year-old brother Shafiq Md Saleem, sister-in-law—Ishrat Bano Shafiq and six of their children including a 1.5-year-old toddler. Tahes Safik, 12, who was the last to be lifted from the rubble had already succumbed to his head trauma.
“Within just 15 minutes, the building collapsed, and I lost my family members. I tried to look for my brother and his family but couldn’t find anyone under the debris,” recalled Siddiqui, while waiting to collect the bodies of his deceased family members at the civic-run Bhagwati Hospital, Borivli on Thursday afternoon.
The building collapsed at around 10.30pm on Wednesday. The civic-run Bharat Ratna Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Municipal General Hospital located in Kandivli (West) received an alert of mass casualty at around 12.30am. All the victims were brought dead to the hospital.
Siddiqui survived with his 17-year-old son Zunaid Rafik whom he had adopted years ago when the teenager lost his parents.
“He does a part-time job at a medical store, so he was at work when the building collapsed. Or else, I would have lost him too,” said Siddiqui.
When asked if he noticed any cracks in the building when it rained heavily on Wednesday, he said they lived there for seven years, but never observed any cracks in the walls or tilting of the building.
“We didn’t know if the building was dilapidated or dangerous to live in. Or else, I would have shifted somewhere else,” he said.
Rapid antigen tests were conducted on all the bodies as per rules before performing autopsies.
Siddiqui has not only lost his family but also his house and belongings. Now, he doesn’t know where to go with his son. All the documents have been lost in the disaster.
“At present, I have kept my son at a neighbour’s house. After performing the last rites of my family members, I will have to look for a house to stay in. I don’t know where to begin,” he said.
‘Mother is in denial, believes 9-year-old is still alive’
Sahil Sarfaraz Sayyed was playing with his mother at home when their building suddenly collapsed and the nine-year-old lost his life. Rizwana, 33, now is in denial, who saw her youngest son die before her eyes.
Rizwana, who works as domestic help, returned home at around 9.30pm and started cooking dinner for her family. As it was drizzling, Sayyed was playing indoors alongside his mother. An hour later, the floor caved in, and Sayyed along with Rizwana got trapped under the debris. Though she survived with minor injuries, she lost her youngest son.
The father Sarfaraz who used to work as a tailor recently lost his job due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. On Wednesday around 8pm, he got a call regarding a job, so he got late returning home when the accident happened.
Naseer Pathan, a relative, said when Rizwana woke up, she started shouting and howling when she was informed about her son. “She is in trauma and shock. When I met her once, she kept asking me about Sahil (Sayyed). She is still in denial and believes that we are lying. I didn’t know what to say, so I left the ward,” he said.
Fortunately, their 17-year-old elder son, Faizan was playing outside with his friends when the building collapsed and escaped injuries.
“They had been living in the building for 25 years but never had any problem other than some load shedding. We have also visited their house quite a few times but never realised that one day, it will take away Sahil’s life,” he said.
As per family members, before Covid-19 hit the city, they were planning to shift to another place on rent. But after losing his job, the father decided to stay back.
“In chawls, the rent of the upper floors are always less. So, the family decided to stay on rent upstairs,” said a family member who was waiting at civic-run Bharat Ratna Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Municipal General Hospital in Kandivli (West).
The body of the child was taken to the civic-run Bhagwati Hospital, Borivli on Thursday afternoon for autopsy.
On Thursday, when the chief minister, Uddhav Thackeray visited Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Municipal General Hospital, the family requested him to help them in getting justice and punishing the culprit.
“No one knew that the building was dilapidated. Or else, we could have saved so many lives today,” said Naseer.
‘Spoke about making paper boats in monsoon’
It was 4am when the body of the eighth child reached the casualty ward of civic-run Bharat Ratna Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Municipal General Hospital, Kandivli. He was later identified as 13-year-old John Irranna. It took over four hours to recover his body from the debris.
Irranna was at home with his mother Maria Kumari and grandmother Laxmi Pillai when the building collapsed. The adults survived with minor injuries, however, the child succumbed to his injuries.
“Just a few minutes before the accident, the grandmother went downstairs to talk to a neighbour. Hence, when the building started cracking, she immediately jumped outside. Similarly, as the building started to collapse, the mother fell to the side while John who was sitting in the middle of the room caved in,” said Krishna, a relative at the hospital.
Irranna’s aunt who is pregnant was also staying with the family in the same room. But on Wednesday evening, she had a doctor consultation, so she didn’t get injured.
His father was outside for work when the accident happened. John studied Class 4 in a BMC-run school. Among his family members, he was known for being mischievous who also missed going to school.
“It took over four hours to search for his body from the debris. We stayed awake the whole night hoping to see him alive. But when they pulled the body from the rubbles, we could see his lifeless body,” said Anitabai Kumari, aunt of the child.
His body was also taken to Bhagwati Hospital, Borivli for post-mortem. Initially, the family wasn’t permitting the procedure but later agreed.
“I just saw him last week where he was talking about making paper boats in the monsoon. Never did we know that he would never be able to sail those in the rain,” said Kumari with teary eyes.
40-year-old pulled out by a relative, passer-by, saved
Surymani Yadav, 40, got a new lease of life when one of his relatives pulled him out of the debris when the building collapsed. He has survived with minor injuries on his head. Though stable, he has been kept under observation.
Yadav ran a dairy shop on the ground floor of the building. Like always, he was working in the shop when the building collapsed within seconds giving him no opportunity to rush out of the shop.
Fortunately, a relative Jatashankar Yadav who was working nearby rushed to the spot when he heard the rumbling sound and pulled him out.
“I could see his hair but didn’t recognise him as it was all covered with debris. I along with a passer-by pulled him out. He had almost stopped breathing in the trauma but later when we gave him water, he calmed down,” said Jatashankar.
Currently, he is undergoing treatment at Bharat Ratna Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Municipal General Hospital in Kandivli. As per doctors, he is stable but still under trauma.
The hospital will provide counselling to all survivors to help them deal with the trauma.