KARACHI: A teenage male died while at least seven other people were injured in the multistorey residential building that collapsed in Korangi on Thursday. The structure was allegedly built illegally on encroached land of an amenity plot spread over 80 square feet through ‘china-cutting’, said officials and witnesses.
Three family members of a policeman living in the building were still feared to be under the debris.
“Seven injured persons have been rescued so far while one body has been recovered,” said Karachi Commissioner Sohail Rajput who visited the site.
“All available resources, including machinery and equipment, have been mobilised and search and rescue operation is going on under supervision of the deputy commissioner of Korangi,” added the commissioner.
Another officer, Korangi SP Shahnawaz Chachar, said that the building was located near Rasheedia Masjid in Allahwala Town.
The SP said he rushed to the spot along with four cranes, which removed debris and rescued the persons.
‘There are so many other buildings in this area that have weak foundations’
Army’s engineering corps, Rangers, and rescue services also rushed to the spot and launched the rescue operation.
The SP apprehended that around four to five persons were still under debris. Later on, the Karachi police spokesperson said that three family members of traffic police officer Zulfiqar — his wife Ms Ayesha and two children, Arsalan, 9, and Sana, 11 — were under the debris and efforts were under way to save them.
Mr Chachar recalled that the building was constructed by a private contractor/builder about four years ago.
He opined that after recent heavy rains, its condition deteriorated as reportedly its basement was filled with rainwater, which prompted the authorities to order the residents to get it vacated.
The Korangi SP estimated that earlier 40 to 50 people were residing in the building and a majority of them had vacated the building two days ago.
Only two families were still living there.
He suggested that the exact cause of collapse of the building may be known after a proper inquiry by experts.
“We received 15-year-old Waqas who was brought dead and seven injured persons,” said Dr Seemin Jamali, executive director of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. All injured persons were stable, added Dr Jamali.
The wounded persons were identified as Mohammed Ayub, 45, his two daughters Nazish, 17, and Kiran, 15, Ms Rani Iqbal, 40, and her two daughters, Reema, 14 and Mehak, 15 and Ms Nisha Fahim, 32.
Sindh Building Control Authority director for Korangi Asif Rizvi reportedly told media that the building was constructed “illegally”.
“The building was built on china-cutting land, which had no map or approval,” added the officer.
Among the chaos, confusion and panic soon after the collapse of the five-storey KDA Heights on Street 12 in Sector 31-B of KDA Employees Society at around 2.15pm on Thursday, there was one voice that could be heard very clearly. It was the voice of a young boy coming from the rubble. He was crying for help. “Help me! Get me out! Can anyone hear me? I can’t move, there’s a pillar over me!”
The boy identified himself as Waqas. Waqas was minding his father’s kabarrhi (recycling goods) shop located on the ground floor of the building at the time while his father had stepped out for a bit to run some errands. The neighbourhood people tried their best to remove the rubble and pull out the injured boy but they couldn’t seem to get to him. And by the time more help appeared the cries for help had died down. Two hours later, they pulled out the body of 14-year-old Waqas.
By the time his father, Mohammad Hanif, reached the spot, the son’s remains had been moved to a morgue. “He was my only son, the only brother of my three daughters! What will I do? Oh God! Who do I blame for my son’s death? I wish I had died instead,” the grief-stricken father screamed. “I hold the building owner responsible for the murder of my child for this is no accident, this is murder!”
There were some five families residing in the building. There were police, army and other people trying to find the occupants of the building in the rubble. They were successful in pulling out three women and a man alive from the top floor, which they were able to get to first.
Nabikh Rashid said that they had pulled out his maternal uncle and his wife and two daughters alive. “My uncle, Ayub Siddiqui, is suffering from a head injury but my aunt and cousins have minor injuries. Please pray for my uncle,” he said.
Ejaz Alavi, an eyewitness, said that he was visiting a recently-completed building in the same street and was just getting off his motorcycle when he heard some strange sounds. “It sounded like the breaking of bamboo poles. Turning around, I saw it happen right before my very eyes. I saw huge cracks developing within a split second and those cracks opened up to give way to the collapsing roofs and walls. It was quick thinking on my part to immediately get back on my bike and get myself to a safe distance otherwise even I would have been buried under the rubble,” he said.
Sewage, rainwater flooding street
All streets leading to the building were flooded with sewage.
Amir, a resident of the area, said they have made several complaints about the gutter water flooding their area after the rains, but all have fallen on deaf ears. “It is this rainwater mixed with sewage that is going into the foundations of the buildings here. The steel bars used in the construction of these buildings have been rusting and swelling up to weaken the buildings,” he pointed out.
Talking specifically about the collapsed building, Amir said that when he had moved to the neighbourhood in 2011, it only had two storeys. “They gradually added floors to it. The fifth floor was added to KDA Heights this year only,” he said.
Main pillar collapsed three days ago
Ilyas Hussain, another neighbour, said that three days ago the main supporting pillar in KDA Heights had collapsed. “The building had started developing big cracks and was also shaking after that,” he said, adding that one of the building residents had called ‘15’ after that.
“The building was visited by police. They said they’ll be sending an expert to look into the structure but they did not return,” Ilyas said.
Nur Wahid added to what Ilyas said. “When something as important as a pillar collapses, the load of the structure then falls on the remaining pillars and walls. The building should have been evacuated immediately. This was a tragedy waiting to happen,” he said, shaking his head with regret.
He also added that now the neighbouring building and the one adjacent to KDA Heights had also been affected. “They have become dangerously weak also.”
Tooba Ahsan, a student, who had arrived at the scene with her mother from their place nearby, said that she thought that she had heard something but could not figure out what it could be exactly until she heard ambulance sirens. “What has happened is terrible. But there are so many other buildings in this very area that have weak foundations and poor construction. I can show you another building right here, in Allahwala Town just behind KDA Employees Society, which doesn’t even have a deep foundation and its builders are adding extra floors to it,” she said.
Another area resident disclosed that the KDA Employees Society is not even legal. “This place where these buildings have come up is an amenity area reserved for a children’s park,” he informed.
Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2020