Bhendi Bazaar building collapse: Human error behind most Mumbai buildings crumbling in the past

Only a month after a building collapsed in Ghatkopar, Mumbai saw another structure bite the dust as the Arsiwala building in Bhendi Bazar area collapsed. Ten people were killed and 15 were critically injured in the incident.

On Tuesday, two buildings in Vikhroli collapsed, and claimed three lives, including two minors in the wake of torrential rains which lashed Mumbai.

Building collapses are becoming increasingly common in India's financial capital. In July, a four-storey building collapsed in Ghatkopar's Damodar Park area, killing 17 and injuring 11. A Shiv Sena leader had come under the scanner as extensive renovations on the ground floor were found to be the reason  behind the collapse. The residents of the building couldn't lodge a complaint despite knowing the dangers because the leader carrying out the renovations was "powerful" and "politically connected".

In October 2016, six minors, including three toddlers, were killed and five others injured when a five-storey building, constructed in violation of rules, collapsed in suburban Bandra. The structure was an illegal one constructed on railway land and shoddy construction resulted in the building collapsing.

Innumerable incidents of collapses also highlight civic apathy towards the dangers of old, weakened structures, which continue to be occupied. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), had identified 796 such structures ahead of the monsoons, however, till March 2017, only 186 of these buildings were demolished (23 percent), while 117 were evacuated (14 percent), according to a report in the Hindustan Times.

Eight people were killed in August 2016 as a portion of a two-storey building fell in Bhiwandi. The building was in a dilapidated condition and a notice had been sent by civic body declaring the building as "most dangerous".

 Bhendi Bazaar building collapse: Human error behind most Mumbai buildings crumbling in the past

Representational image. Firstpost/Sanjay Sawant

In April 2016, there was the collapse of a three-storey building in Kamathipura which killed six and injured two. The building in question was over a hundred years old and was in the process of being repaired by MHADA. No one was living in the building and the deceased were the construction workers. The incident saw a blame game between MHADA and BMC as to who was responsible for the collapse.

A building in Thane came crashing down in August 2015 killing 12 and injuring seven people. The residents had been issued notice to evacuate the building but some had continued to stay there until the unfortunate incident took place.

Two devastating incidents marked March 2014 as buildings collapsed in Mazgaon and Santacruz. The Mazgaon incident involved a five-storey residential BMC building which fell and killed 25 people and injured 32. The structure had been categorised as a C-2 building,which meant that it was in need of urgent repairs. In Santacruz, seven people died after a seven-storey residential building collapsed. The BMC had declared the building to be dilapidated and dangerous and had been sending eviction notices since 2007. People had however refused to move and one family had even obtained an HC stay in the matter.

2013 was a particularly bad year. The major collapse, which killed 61 people, involved a 35-year-old building that had been listed for urgent repairs when it caved in. Here too, the authorities had asked the residents to vacate the building but had not done so.

Another incident in Mazgaon saw the deaths of 42 people after a four-storey building collapsed. The reason for this collapse was similar to the Ghatkopar incident in 2017 as the police arrested a man for illegally carrying out renovation works at his rented office-cum-warehouse on the ground floor of the ill-fated structure.

These incidents show a civic apathy towards the dangers of old, weakened structures, which continue to be occupied. The BMC had identified 796 such structures ahead of the monsoons. However till March 2017,  only 186 of these buildings were demolished (23 percent), while 117 were evacuated (14 percent), according to a report in the Hindustan Times.

The actual building collapse numbers are staggering too as 1,366 incidents of house collapse were reported between 2010 to 2015.

However, Mumbai's civic bodies are not the only one at fault. There have been multiple incidents where illegal constructions played a vital part. Further, in many cases, the civic bodies had issued warning and eviction notices to the residents who had ignored them.

The sad thing is that in almost all of these cases, the incidents could have been avoided. In most cases, human error, and not natural causes, was the reason behind the collapses. Like this Firstpost article argues dilapidated structures, which could crumble like a house of cards, is a serious and a life-threatening issue. Yet, people continue to live in them.

"Amid all this, the culture of illegality has been given a lease of life by the Maharashtra government, which allows regularisation of  lakhs of illegal structures across the state without even trying to know how the state or its appurtenances (like the civic bodies) are responsible for them."

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Updated Date: Aug 31, 2017 14:40:44 IST