Rafiq Siddiqui, who lost his entire family in a building collapse in Mumbai’s Malwani slum settlement late on Wednesday night, has been booked for culpable homicide in a first information report (FIR) by police as he owned the structure. The contractor, Ramzan Nabi Shaikh, has been arrested with civic officials saying there was unsafe and unauthorised construction. The incident occurred following heavy rain in the city and waterlogging in several parts after the onset of monsoon, a season when building collapses commonly occur in India with showers and swampy conditions weakening the foundations of rickety structures.
Siddiqui, 40, had stepped out for some work when his three-storey building fell on an adjacent one. His wife Rahisa, his brother Shafiq and sister-in-law Ishrat were all found dead in the debris along with Shafiq’s six children— two sons and four daughters aged below 13. One of the children was a toddler, barely 18 months old.
The family lived on the top floor in two rooms of the three-storey building. A total of 12 people died in the incident, of which nine were from Siddiqui’s family. Two other children, who lived in the floors below, also died. The body of a milkman who worked in the same building was the last one to be pulled out from the rubble. At least 7 people were injured and they were taken to BBDA Municipal Hospital in Kandivali.
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray met the survivors at the hospital and announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the kin of the deceased. Leaders from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) blamed Maharashtra’s ruling Shiv Sena, which also controls the city’s municipal body.
At least five other structures were damaged in the incident. Rubina Sheikh was fast asleep in her room in a building behind. She was woken up by her son after a cement wall fell in their living room.
“My house is completely damaged. I would have died had my son not arrived in time to rescue me. My neighbours couldn’t be saved. Their entire family is finished. I’m terrified at the thought of what those kids must have felt,” she said.
Locals were woken up by a loud crashing noise, around 11 pm on Wednesday. Witnesses say it was pitch dark as there was no electricity due to the collapse. Much before the rescue teams arrived, locals began searching for survivors in the rubble using mobile phone torchlight.
“We heard a loud thud and when people came out, there was dust everywhere. The entire structure had collapsed. I believe four families lived in there comprising around 15 people. I myself rescued several people and also removed some bodies,” said a neighbour.
Civic officials say these structures were built on weak foundations, had no permission to build extra floors, and were unsafe. Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar said the building that collapsed was in category C, indicating it was dangerous, and the residents should have been shifted out.
Most of the structures in the settlement are in a similar condition. The mayor said she has directed authorities to carry out an audit to identify similar dangerous buildings.