Rescue ops called off, final death toll is 16 | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Rescue ops called off, final death toll is 16

May 17, 2024 07:40 AM IST

The incident site resembled a massive scrapyard on Thursday, with mangled remains of vehicles and girders lying in heaps.

Mumbai: Rescue operations at Ghatkopar East, where a massive hoarding collapsed during Monday’s storm, were called off on Thursday morning, with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) commissioner Bhushan Gagrani saying they would crack down on all hoardings in the city that did not adhere to norms specified by the civic body. Two bodies – of actor Kartik Aryan’s uncle and aunt, who had been missing – were pulled out from under the rubble on Wednesday night, taking the death toll from the incident to 16. Meanwhile, those undergoing treatment for injuries at Rajawadi Hospital complained of inadequate care and the incident site resembled a massive scrapyard, with mangled remains of vehicles and girders lying in heaps.

At the site, mangled remains of 47 two wheelers, 39 four wheelers, and 10 rickshaws – crushed under the weight of the hoarding – lay in heaps. The asphalt tanker that had saved the lives of 12 people who took refuge under it was yet to be evacuated as well due to the scorching temperatures of the bitumen inside. (Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times)
At the site, mangled remains of 47 two wheelers, 39 four wheelers, and 10 rickshaws – crushed under the weight of the hoarding – lay in heaps. The asphalt tanker that had saved the lives of 12 people who took refuge under it was yet to be evacuated as well due to the scorching temperatures of the bitumen inside. (Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times)

“Sixteen persons have tragically lost their lives due to the collapse of the billboard. Rescue operations on site, conducted jointly by the fire brigade, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), BMC, Mumbai police, MMRDA, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and Mahanagar Gas Limited (MGL), have been completed, and no more people are trapped at the spot. Work on removing the scrap from the site is still ongoing,” said Gagrani, calling off the rescue operation at around 10.30am on Thursday, more than 60 hours after it commenced on Monday evening.

Announcing that the Veermata Jijabai Technology Institute (VJTI) had been appointed to investigate the incident at Ghatkopar, he said, “Action will be taken against those who granted a structural stability certificate for the collapsed hoarding.”

Gagrani vowed to crack down on all hoardings that do not adhere to prescribed standards, saying, “We will act on a war footing against all billboards that do not adhere to BMC’s standards of size, structure, stability, foundation, and arrangements for wind resistance.” The civic body has also written to the Railways to undertake a structural audit of all hoardings within their jurisdiction, said the BMC chief. “It does not matter whose jurisdiction the hoardings fall under; everyone must adhere to the BMC’s standards, and the Railways must remove those hoardings that don’t,” he said, clarifying that certificates for structural stability needed to be obtained from and shared with the BMC.

On being asked about the petrol pump on which the hoarding collapsed, Gagrani said it had been granted a provisional license. “We will check if it obtained a proper license subsequently. If not, action will be taken against the petrol pump too,” he said.

The two bodies found in a decomposed state on Wednesday night were identified as those of Manoj Chansoria, 60, and Anita Chansoria, 59 – actor Kartik Aryan’s uncle and aunt, who were reported as missing earlier. Both bodies were sent to Rajawadi Hospital for postmortem and collected by the family subsequently.

A helper at the site explained why it took so long to extricate the two bodies although most other injured and dead persons were pulled out the day after the incident. “The car in which the couple was travelling was stuck under the third girder of the hoarding, at the very centre. A test showed that there was fuel at the location, so the metal had to be cut through very carefully so as not to harm the bodies or any other people trapped beneath,” he said. Most of the other dead and injured persons were retrieved from under the first two girders using a crane, he said.

At the site, mangled remains of 47 two wheelers, 39 four wheelers, and 10 rickshaws – crushed under the weight of the hoarding – lay in heaps. The asphalt tanker that had saved the lives of 12 people who took refuge under it was yet to be evacuated as well due to the scorching temperatures of the bitumen inside. Heavy machinery used to prise through the rubble, including a massive claw cutter, stood idle at the side, with a few officials supervising the cutting of scrap into small parts for easy transportation. Some other persons walked up and down the site, trying to check on their vehicles or retrieve their belongings.

At Rajawadi Hospital in Ghatkopar, where a majority of the injured are undergoing treatment, anger simmered among the families of patients. Many said they were not being informed about medical procedures or even the likely date of discharge. Tarannum Khan, wife of a delivery boy who was injured in the incident, said she was told that her husband needed a surgery and he would be shifted to Sion Hospital soon. “But after that, they said nothing about when he might be shifted and when the surgery might take place,” she said.

“On Wednesday, when the hospital thought that PM Modi might pay a visit, they got us all stools to sit on. This morning, they took them all back. When we sit on the patient’s bed, they stop us. Are we supposed to keep standing for days on end,” wondered an angry Khan.

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