BMC officials said total 19 people died in the incident, while five suffered injuries.
A two-year-old girl was the youngest victim who died in the wall collapse mishap at New Bharat Nagar, Vashi Naka in Chembur, on Saturday. The girl’s mother, 32-year-old Urmila Thakur, recently came to her mother’s place in the slum settlement.
On Saturday night, when a landslide led to the wall collapse, Thakur, her mother Jijabai Tiwari (54) and daughter Khushi were all buried under the debris of the house flattened by mud and rain.
The slum is on the slope of a hill in Chembur. On one side situated is the huge BARC complex, which includes a residential colony, offices and an installation close to the sea. The top most portions of the slum are built against the BARC compound wall. At a right angle with this wall stood a retaining partition, built by the Mumbai Housing and Area Development Authority about 10 year ago, to prevent landslides. Both the walls collapsed due to the landslides.
BMC officials said total 19 people died in the incident, while five suffered injuries. Thakur’s neighbours said it happened so quickly that they had no time to react or help anybody.
Thakur’s neighbour Parveen Ali recounted how the tragedy happened. “I was asleep when I heard a lightning-like sound. I woke up to see what happened. I felt an electric shock and ran out to call Urmila so that they could also come out. But I was stunned to see that in a few seconds Urmila’s house drowned in mud and the BARC boundary wall collapsed on it. My brother pulled me and my one-year-old daughter out,” Ali said.
“I can’t believe that they are no more. Only yesterday Urmila’s daughter was asking me to play with her,” she added.
Thakur’s two brothers were at work when the incident took place. She has two more children whom she had left at her husband’s place. Ali’s family narrowly escaped death as they slept on the first floor of the house. Local residents said they had never witnessed such a calamity due to rain in the past two to three decades. “I have been living here for over two decades and this is the first time something like this happened,” said Bhimrao Shakhare, a local resident who helped in the search and rescue operation. He added, “We heard a huge sound and before we could figure out what happened, everything was gone. It was dark as electricity was disconnected.”
Nitin Ghasing, whose house was also destroyed, said his cousin got married on Saturday. “I stayed here to collect whatever household articles are remaining, but everything is gone.”
Narrow lanes, crowding and local interference caused difficulties in the search and rescue operations by fire brigade and National Disaster Response Force. “The lanes are so narrow that only one person can pass at a time. We had to remove debris and mud manually,” said an NDRF official. Rain also hampered the rescue work. In the evening, a BMC team arrived with a megaphone making announcements for shifting of residents. The BMC has planned to move nearly 250 people to shelter homes in Mahul.
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