Ghatkopar tragedy: Death toll rises to 16 as rescuers continue to dismantle the billboard | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Ghatkopar tragedy: Death toll rises to 16 as rescuers continue to dismantle the billboard

May 16, 2024 09:21 AM IST

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel are part of the 130-member rescue team also comprising staff from the fire brigade

Mumbai: Over 48 hours after a 120x120 feet billboard collapsed on a petrol pump in Ghatkopar, the death toll rose from 14 (of Tuesday) to 16 on Wednesday. Two bodies, one male and one female, were retrieved late on Wednesday. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel are part of the 130-member rescue team also comprising staff from the fire brigade. The team continued to hack away at the skeletal remains of the structure in their search for any dead or alive. Heavy machinery, such as JCBs, Poclain hydraulics and hydraulic crane cutters, are being used to dismantle the billboard and its girders.

Two days after the tragedy, as stench filled the air, the death toll is expected to rise. (Raju Shinde/HT Photo)
Two days after the tragedy, as stench filled the air, the death toll is expected to rise. (Raju Shinde/HT Photo)

On the side, families are keeping up their pursuit to find the missing. The Chansoriyas are one such family. A car belonging to Manoj and Anita Chansoriya was found crushed in the rubble but their bodies have not been retrieved yet, said members of the family and friends. Manoj is the former head of air traffic control (ATC), Mumbai. Manoj retired in March this year. He is also actor Kartik Aryan’s uncle.

Two days after the tragedy, as stench filled the air, the death toll is expected to rise. Explaining the progress made so far, an NDRF official said, “We are close to removing the third girder of the total six of the billboard. There are many vehicles trapped between the third and fourth girders. Search operations will commence subsequently, although there is little chance of finding anyone alive.”

On Wednesday, reports of a small fire breaking out, while the girders were being cut, sparked anxiety among those looking for the missing, but rescue officials refuted it; they said it was a minor flame that was doused within minutes. Rescuers are working with care, even though the fuel stored underground and in the tanks “were properly secured”. Officials also said they had taken adequate precaution to work around fuel that had leaked from the vehicles and the fuel distribution unit of the petrol pump.

Tausif Khan, an official from the company in-charge of operating the heavy machinery, said, “We worked all night yesterday and have almost removed the third girder, using the heavy machinery. NDRF and fire brigade personnel will now start search operations. There is a lot of foul smell being emitted; many more bodies are lying inside.”

“We have almost come to the centre portions of the billboard – this is the spot where many mangled cars are lodged. Two-wheelers, which were on the periphery, have been removed,” Khan added. “More load needs to be lifted, so that two 500-ton cranes from the metro site can be used to lift the billboard. This will possibly be done on Thursday, after approval from NDRF. We can go ahead only when we are sure that there are no more trapped bodies.”

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