48 die in Thane building collapse, two suspended (Roundup)

Thane (Maharashtra), April 5 (IANS) Even as the death toll in Thursday evening’s seven-storey building collapse rose to 48, two officials were suspended Friday for not heeding complaints regarding the unauthorised structure.

Civic and police officials told IANS that Deputy Municipal Commissioner Deepak Chavan and Senior Police Inspector K.P. Naik of Shil-Daighar Police Station had been suspended.

“Another official, the ward officer of the zone, was suspended in January by the civic commissioner for laxity in acting against complaints of unauthorised structures,” a civic official told IANS.

Disaster management and fire brigade officials continued rescue operations Friday, over 24 hours after the tragedy.

“We have pulled out 48 dead bodies. We have rescued 59 people. At least 25 people are still trapped under the rubble. We plan to rescue them slowly to avoid any more injury,” National Disaster Response Force Commander Alok Awasthi said here.

A Thane disaster management official said while efforts were on to rescue those trapped under the debris, many victims were yet to be identified.

“Eight to 10 victims who were critical have been shifted to hospital in Mumbai. We pulled out many children,” he added.

At least 10 children succumbed to their injuries in the incident, police said.

While civic officials admitted that the building was unauthorised, they blamed the builders who went ahead with the construction despite not having relevant permissions.

When asked if the building was on forest land, a civic official confirmed the same stating that the forest department did not heed to its correspondence.

“We had written to the concerned forest official requesting him to look into the unauthorised construction of the building in October last year. We had even sent a reminder next month but did not get any response,” he told IANS.

The official said that in March, a notice was slapped on builder Adnan Seth, one of the partners in the company constructing the structure.

A forest official said that the land was privately owned and did not come under the purview of the forest department.

Police have registered a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder against the two builders, Jamil Qureshi and Salim Shaikh, who have promptly gone underground.

Civic sources also said that sub-standard material was used in construction of the building and that it had no occupancy certificate. They also hinted at the involvement of politically motivated fourth party.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Home Minister R.R. Patil visited the spot.

Termed as one of the worst building disasters in the state in the past decade, activists from the area said that there were scores of such building in the Mumbra-Kalyan region due to the builder-officials-police-politicians nexus.

Thane houses many heavy industries.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) legislator from the area Ramesh Patil alleged that the municipal commissioner did not pay heed to his complaints about the building being unauthorised and unfit for occupation.

There were around 35 families residing in the building.

Local activist Mangal Patil had also registered repeated complaints with the Thane Municipal Corporation about the unauthorised structure, but to no avail. Speaking to mediapersons, Mangal Patil claimed that there were over 100 such buildings in the area.

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